The new redistricting lines for Minneapolis are “racist and classist,” said City Council member Natalie Johnson Lee on Wednesday.
During a press conference at City Hall, Johnson Lee and City Council member Dean Zimmermann, both Green Party officials, said they objected to the new ward boundaries because they isolate minorities and low-income residents.
“This is an attack on poor people, it is an attack on people of color, it is a blatant attack also on the Green Party,” said Johnson Lee, who represents the 5th Ward.
Johnson Lee said the new 5th Ward boundary “takes out the affluence” and diminishes minority voice in other parts of the city by grouping them together in her ward.
She also questioned whether the redistricting process complied with state statutes.
“I really think that there are some illegalities in the process,” Johnson Lee said.
Every 10 years, city officials revise ward boundaries based on population changes determined by the U.S. Census. The process is designed to ensure the population of each ward is equally represented.
Zimmermann said the Redistricting Commission did not heed public opinion before
determining the new districts.
“What we have here is a bait and switch process,” Zimmermann said.
But Redistricting Committee Chairwoman Parker Trostel said the group “listened, we understood and we made a lot of changes” before making the final decision April 12.
“If you look at the map, in comparison to the way it was presently operating under, it’s a much greater improvement,” Trostel said.
She also said grouping minorities together was part of the city’s goal – to create minority opportunity districts that allow for greater representation.
“It’s really kind of ironic that when you get opportunity districts, now they’re fussing about them,” Trostel said.
Johnson Lee denounced the commission’s opportunity districts as a “falsehood.”
Keesha Gaskins, political action chairwoman of the Minneapolis National Association for the Advancement of Colored People branch, said, “there’s a point where an opportunity district starts to become packing.”
“Packing” is a term for concentrating minorities into a single area to diminish their political influence.
“It undermines the ability of communities of color to be adequately represented throughout the city,” Gaskins said.
“What they did instead was to create wards that were economically and demographically disparate,” she said.
Zimmermann also questioned why the nine-member Redistricting Commission only had one Green Party representative in a city with 20 percent support for the party.
“This clearly is the type of political maneuvering that one has come to expect from the dominant party,” Zimmermann said.
Although the Redistricting Committee has already approved the ward boundaries, he said, he encourages residents to voice their opinions during a City Council meeting on Friday.
“What they can do is they can reject it,” Zimmermann said. “Reject it, send it back and say it’s unacceptable.”
Michael Krieger covers University
neighborhoods and welcomes comments at mkrieger[email protected]