Phoenix residents weigh redistricting plans that would further divide downtown

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Two proposed plans for Phoenix's upcoming redistricting would further split downtown into three districts. District 7, which contains part of downtown, has more residents than the ideal cap. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

Battle lines were drawn as Phoenix residents grappled over electoral districts during a redistricting meeting held Thursday at the Burton Barr Central Library.

Redistricting is the elaborate process that occurs every 10 years where electoral districts are redrawn using census data to make them more representative of population proportions. Phoenix has eight districts; downtown currently resides within Districts 7 and 8.

The City Manager’s Office and City Clerk’s Office are overseeing the redistricting, which began in December. An initial round of public meetings was conducted in January and February. During these meetings, Phoenix residents were asked to submit concept maps for the new districts. The deadline to submit public input was March 12.

A total of 69 maps were received and given to Research Advisory Services, a public-policy and demographic research consulting firm tasked with developing the new district boundaries.

Research Advisory Services took the maps, census data and other public contributions and created eight maps to present to the Phoenix City Council, which chose the two maps presented to the public yesterday during the second set of meetings that began in April.

Michael Mandell, an attorney with RAS, said the company received the project bid last October.

“We’re hearing from people all over the city and need specificity in the comments,” he said.

Cris Meyer, Phoenix city clerk, said District 7 currently has a population of 260,000. Each district ideally should contain 180,891 residents, according to the concept plans. The two proposed plans are titled C and Phoenix 88. Each plan would splinter downtown Phoenix into Districts 4, 7 and 8.

However, many residents who attended the meeting expressed concerns with each map, citing issues with minority populations, the arts and culture community, and neighborhood associations.

Viva Samuel Ramirez, a representative for Voto Latino, an organization focused on Latino issues, lives on Central Avenue and McDowell Road and opposes splitting District 7.

“To chop it off is like castrating the district,” he said. “If you want to prune a tree, you don’t chop the trunk. You trim the leaves.”

Ramirez has been enjoying the growth in the neighborhood and said that when his family moved to the area, “District 7 was pretty much urban blight.”

If District 7 is split up, Ramirez said that would ruin the momentum the community has been building up.

“I’ve just been able to get into a groove with these people, and now they want to put me into a new district with new people,” he said. “It’s devasting to the momentum and my little part of the world.”

He likened dividing the district to “breaking up a basketball team right before playoffs.”

Splitting the district would also jeopardize relationships people have been building to improve and revitalize the downtown community, Ramirez said.

“I’m shaking in my boots right now because we’ve been working so hard,” Ramirez said.

Marci Rosenberg, a consultant with RAS, spoke with Ramirez after the meeting about his concerns with the plans.

“We are trying to balance population numbers and minority voters,” she said.

Meyer stressed that the concept plans presented at the meeting are not final. Residents’ comments from these meetings will be considered during the creation of the final district map.

The deadline to submit a final map will be June 19, Meyer said. If the City Council approves it, it will be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice to verify it passes the Voting Rights Act. If it passes, it would take effect in January 2013.

“We’re about to get really good in downtown Phoenix,” Ramirez said. “Let’s see what else we can accomplish now that we’ve coalesced.”

Contact the reporter at josselyn.berry@gmail.com

Correction: May 11, 2012

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that downtown is currently in District 7. The downtown area is split between District 7 and District 8.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I looked at those new maps. WTF is this little peninsula jutting up in the middle of the new District 4 on PLAN C? (the Mexican Redistricting Plan as I call it)

    That will DESTROY this region and seriously effect downtown. For one it will create political antagonisms in the critical area in downtown west. No development will happen in the region as a result. Clearly there was some payoffs involved here because PLAN C includes a little triangular section that includes the land holdings of Beatrice Moore.

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/related/to/Beatrice+Moore/

    Also it will be difficult to police and crime is a serious problem down there.

    Plan 88 is by far the more reasonable plan.

    There was even some girl down there advocating for Plan C (she was quite prepared for this meeting ill have you know) who also runs Occupy Wall Street for Phoenix. Someone is trying to screw up these neighborhoods and the locals are not happy.

  2. You are correct that Downtown is within both district 7 and 8. I called the city of phoenix redistricting number to verify and they told me it was only district 7. We are correcting it now.

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