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Wendy Reuer, Published March 26 2012

Moorhead approves redistricting plan

MOORHEAD – An amendment that would have kept residents of the historic Comstock Neighborhood here in the same election ward failed despite public pleas from residents.

Second Ward Councilman Mark Altenburg asked that the lines of the proposed redistricting plan be shifted slightly to keep the neighborhood in the 2nd Ward, but the amendment failed with a vote of 4-3. Altenburg, along with council members Heidi Durand and Luther Stueland, voted for the amendment while council members Mike Hulett, Brenda Elmer, Nancy Otto and Mark Hintermeyer voted against.

Councilman Steve Gehrtz was not at the meeting.

Earlier this month, City Clerk Jill Wenger proposed a redistricting plan that moves the boundary of the 1st Ward south two blocks while the 3rd Ward is moved north two blocks, pushing the 2nd Ward east of 11th Street and stretching south to Interstate 94.

The city was forced to undergo redistricting after the 2010 census showed the 4th Ward had grown to include about 4,000 more residents and the city had grown by nearly 6,000. City charter requires no more than a 10 percent population difference between election wards.

On March 19, the city held a public hearing on the proposed plan in which three people spoke, all asking that the Comstock neighborhood be kept in the 2nd Ward.

The Comstock neighborhood is in the area near Minnesota State University Moorhead and Eighth Street, stretching from Ninth Avenue South to about Fourth Avenue.

“I think most of us want to stay in the 2nd Ward so we can stay with our current council representatives who have done a lot for us,” Comstock resident Donna McMaster said last week. “There are just so many things we don’t have in common with parts of the 3rd Ward.”

Hulett, a 3rd Ward councilman, and Hintermeyer said Comstock was not the only neighborhood that would be split as part of the redistricting plan. Hintermeyer said he has heard from other individuals opposed to the proposed plan.

Altenburg and Durand said the public process should weigh in the council’s decision.

“We haven’t seen that same public outcry from other residents. A public hearing is intended to hear the comments from the people, and those people have spoken,” Durand said.

“People who show up make the rules,” Stueland said. “Second Ward members who want to remain in the 2nd Ward have shown up.”

The council approved the redistricting plan without the amendment with a vote of 7-0. Durand first voted against the plan but because seven votes are required by charter, she changed her vote.

The state requires city redistricting plans be submitted by April 3.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530