Healing wards

About four years ago, I brought up the topic of expanding the City Council, on the basis that the eight individual wards were getting a bit unruly, what with ongoing population increases. One observation:

[D]o we need twelve wards? Will Council Member So-and-so be “more accessible” if he has 45,000 constituents instead of 67,500? And how much gerrymandering can we expect if new lines are to be drawn?

We still have eight wards, now averaging 70,000 population each.

Says the City Charter:

The wards shall be as compact in form as possible and ward lines shall not set up artificial corridors which in effect separate voters from the ward to which they most naturally belong.

In which case, the 1992 redistricting failed: the Capitol Hill area, south of the river, includes bits of Wards 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. (You can see the current ward map here.)

Nick Roberts, having noticed this anomaly, notes:

Some have suggested, as Pete White did when he called it ridiculous how Capitol Hill is split into 5 different wards, that we need to expand and add more councilors in order to expand representation. This seems like a no-brainer to me, but it’s not the only good argument. Then others such as Sam Bowman want to just see better-drawn wards without expanding the Horseshoe because there are advantages to having fewer councilors, that it’s easier to get everyone in a room and find compromise than have publicly-waged debates involving political capital and things you see in places like … Tulsa.

Given the fact that the population continues to expand with no particular regard for ward boundaries, I think we’re eventually going to add to the Horseshoe: ten wards, maybe even twelve, might be necessary. (The Mayor remains at the center, either way.) Pete White’s Ward 4 is going to look funny no matter what, I suspect; it stretches all the way to Pottawatomie County. And Sam Bowman is retiring from the nicely-compact Ward 2; his replacement may have different ideas. (No, I am not considering running for that Council seat.) Tulsa, you’ll note, has nine wards.

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