The city charter says wards should be 'nearly as equal in population as possible.'
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city's charter review commission is a good place to take up the issue of redrawing city wards, says Councilman Rufus Hudson.
Clearly, it's time to do something, said Hudson, D-2nd.
He pointed to the 3,000-plus resident disparity between his ward with 10,203 and the city's largest wards, the 4th and 7th. Each ward needs about 11,700 people to be roughly equal, assuming there are seven wards.
"There's a significant number when you talk about a ... vote," he said.
Today's ward system doesn't fairly represent people, he said. The voting strengths of his ward vs. the others violate the concept of one man-one vote, Hudson said.
Council last adopted new ward lines after the 1980 Census. Hudson asked his colleagues at a recent council meeting to consider redistricting.
The city charter says wards should be "nearly as equal in population as possible."
The charter addresses redistricting, but the directions are hardly definitive. Redrawing lines isn't even required; it's merely posed as an option: "Following each federal census, council may redistrict the city so as to maintain a reasonable equality of population among the seven wards."
Councilman Ron Sefcik, D-4th, whose ward is the largest, said the disparity isn't outrageous but he wouldn't object to considering a redistricting. The 4th ward's lines would move only a couple blocks anyway since the population is fairly dense, he said. Other wards would see more drastic change in geography, he said.
Other council members whose wards either would lose or gain significant residents couldn't be reached to comment Monday.
Hudson likes the idea of letting the charter commission take up the issue because keeping seven wards isn't necessarily a given. Trimming the number of council seats, creating at-large seats, or a combination of changes have been mentioned.
The debate over where the lines should fall is part of the discussion over council's setup, he said. People need to see the flaws and benefits of many different plans, Hudson said. The charter commission is a good forum for that, he said.
He would like to see a proposal on council's setup, including any redistricting, ready for the March 2004 ballot.
Council can adopt a redistricting plan without it going to the ballot. Hudson wouldn't speculate on what redistricting plan council would find favorable.
"We'll look at it, analyze it, and then we'll address it," he said.
Mayor George M. McKelvey said a month ago that he was forming the charter review commission.