City redistricting heats up; U area to be redrawn

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The city of Minneapolis will redraw its 13 wards this spring and the University of Minnesota and surrounding neighborhoods will likely be a key area in the process.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, city wards 2 and 3, which encompass the University and surrounding neighborhoods, had significant changes in population. The wards will change in order to ensure ward populations are similar to one another.

Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause MN, an advocacy group that monitors redistricting throughout the state, said the results could have a large impact on city policies.

He added that redistricting could also change how people are represented, especially minority groups.

“This has a huge impact on the election,” Dean said. “Wards can be redrawn in a way that decides elections.”

A 2010 amendment to the city charter gave the Charter Commission — not the City Council — the power to decide how the city wards should be divided. Charter Commission members are not elected officials.

Dean said this is important because it ensures that city wards will be redistricted without political motives.

Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, said the city is hoping the public will get involved in the process.

He said the city is promoting public involvement in redistricting with brochures, television appearances, public hearings and DrawMinneapolis.org, a website developed to allow the public to draw their own redistricted maps.

Clegg said these maps will be considered by the commission before it makes its final decision. Citizens Committee for Fair Redistricting, which represents minority groups, submitted a proposal to the Charter Commission Wednesday.

An urban geography class at the University is also taking advantage of the city’s call by asking students to draw their own maps using the site. Dean is helping to guide the class project.

“This is a once-in-10-year opportunity,” said Jeff Mattson, who teaches the class every spring semester. “It’s completely hands-on and hopefully they get excited about this assignment.”

Sean Broom, an urban studies senior, said he is excited about the project.

“The dynamic between these lines and the impact subtle movements can have is really incredible,” he said.

Wards 2 and 3 currently split up the University area, but Cam Gordon, councilman for ward 2, said the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood was part of ward 2 before the last round of redistricting.

Gordon went on to say that the Charter Commission recently released a sample map that will likely be a “starting point” for redistricting discussions.

Dean said it’s still unclear exactly how the current process will affect ward lines. The city must complete its redistricting work within 60 days of the state redrawing its districts or by April 3.

“Students have a real opportunity here to emerge as a significant voice in the city,” Dean said. “But we’ll just have to wait and see how this thing plays out.”