Wendy Reuer, Published March 11 2012
Moorhead ward lines to change
<•> What: Moorhead City Council
<•> When: Tonight at 5:30
<•> Where: Council Chambers, Moorhead City Hall
<•> Info: Council will discuss a new redistricting plan
MOORHEAD – The City Council chose last week to move forward with a redistricting plan that redraws ward boundaries as little as possible to even out the city’s uneven growth, but that could change if voters speak out.
The redistricting plan favored by council members was the only one of the three presented by staff that wouldn’t have had one councilwoman living outside of her own ward.
Two council members represent each of the four wards in Moorhead. Ward lines are redrawn every 10 years to reflect new census data, and by city charter, no ward can be more than 10 percent larger in population than another ward.
According to 2010 census figures, there were about 6,000 more residents in the city, with the 4th Ward to the southeast gaining 4,114 new residents – 70 percent of the decade’s growth.
As drawn now, the 4th Ward, Moorhead’s most populous, is home to 12,215 residents, whereas the 1st Ward has 8,203 residents – the fewest in the city. That leaves the 4th Ward with 49 percent more residents than the 1st Ward, which covers much of downtown and the north side.
The 2nd Ward begins south of Third Avenue South, including most of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and has 9,102 residents. The 3rd Ward is along the Red River south from Seventh Avenue South, including Concordia College, and has 8,545 residents.
To help curb the difference in new population, with an aim toward wards with about 9,500 residents each, City Clerk Jill Wenger presented three redistricting options to the council last week:
<•> Concept A combines both MSUM and Concordia College in the 2nd Ward, banding the colleges together in one ward but disrupting ward lines the most of any plan in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th wards.
<•> Concept B extends the boundary of the 1st Ward south to increase its population and changes ward lines the least overall.
<•> Concept C places what is now the 3rd Precinct of the 2nd Ward in the 1st Ward, the plan changing the 1st Ward the most.
The council decided Monday to move forward with concept B, with a couple of small modifications, said City Manager Michael Redlinger.
The council is slated to vote tonight on the first reading of an ordinance approving the plan. A public hearing is set for March 19, with final approval of the new districts scheduled for March 26.
Councilman Mark Altenburg said he hopes residents will speak up if they would like to see more changes.
Many council members said they supported concept B because it showed the least amount of major change. Under concepts A and C, Councilwoman Heidi Durand would no longer live in the 2nd Ward she now represents.
If the council chooses concept A, Durand would live in 4th Ward. In concept C, Durand would live in 1st Ward.
“Ward boundaries were created without the purpose of protecting or defeating any incumbents,” Wenger said. “I intentionally did not track the residences of council members.”
Durand would be allowed to finish out her four-year term, which began in January, but she would have to run for re-election in the ward where she lives.
“I would like to serve the people that elected me to the best of my ability without feeling torn between the ward I was elected in and the ward I live in,” Durand said last week.
Redlinger said tweaks could be made up until the council vote on March 26. Minnesota cities have until April 3 to redistrict.
One tweak that can’t be made is one to account for the annexation of Oakport in 2015. Even though the city will add about 1,500 residents to the 1st Ward, the city is not allowed to account for the move now, Wenger said.
Mayor Mark Voxland said next year, he plans to ask for approval from the Secretary of State to allow the city to redistrict again in 2015 rather than waiting until after the 2020 Census results, when redistricting would occur next.
“I don’t think there have been many, if any, annexations of this size in the state of Minnesota in the last 20 or 30 years,” Voxland said.
Moorhead must approve its new districts before Clay County can redraw the districts that county board members represent, Auditor Lori Johnson said.
“In the plan, we worked with (Tuesday), none of the commissioners would be placed outside their district,” Johnson said.
The city of Barnesville also faces redistricting.
“It’s not as complicated as the city of Moorhead because they just have
three wards,” she said.
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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530