Residents urged to get involved in redistricting process

Minneapolis residents are being encouraged to help city leaders reshape ward and park district boundaries in the coming months in an effort to keep communities with shared interests from being split.

The redistricting process — triggered by the 2010 U.S. Census — aims to create equitable wards and park districts based on population. Each of the city’s 13 wards should have between 27,958 and 30,900 people, while each of the city’s six park districts should be between 60,575 and 66,951, according to the latest population figures.

Common Cause Minnesota, a non-partisan government watchdog group, is working to inform residents about the process and has built a website where residents can draw their own ward and park district maps, drawminneapolis.org.

The maps will be used to create recommendations for the Minneapolis Redistricting Group, an independent commission created through an amendment to the city charter in 2010. The 24-member group is supposed to finalize new ward and park district maps no later than April 3.

Common Cause Minnesota used a similar map-making process when state officials were in the midst of a redistricting process, an effort that generated more than 500 maps. State officials have yet to finalize the new state districts.

Mike Dean, the group’s executive director, said the effort to engage residents in the redistricting process is intended to reduce the level of partisanship and help prevent communities from being divided, reducing their influence in elections.

In 2002, the last time the city went through a redistricting process, neighborhoods in south and north Minneapolis were divided in ways that split communities, he said.

“That created a lot of mistrust in the process, so what we’re trying to do now is get people involved and get them to understand why this matters because it effects how you’re represented at City Hall,” Dean said.

Though the redistricting group has said they want to keep changes as minimal as possible, population shifts will likely lead to changes in ward and park district boundaries. North Minneapolis has lost residents, while neighborhoods downtown and near the University of Minnesota have grown, creating the potential for changes that could ripple throughout the city.

Common Cause Minnesota has scheduled two meetings to help residents and neighborhood leaders understand the redistricting process and how they can get involved.

The first meeting will be held on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. to noon at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs Room 180, 301 19th Ave. South and will look generally at the redistricting process.  

The second meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Urban Research & Outreach-Engagement Center, 2001 Plymouth Ave North and will be used to show residents how to use the map-making website.
City officials are also working to get the word out.

A new website, minneapolismn.gov/redistricting2012, has been created to share information about the process, and residents are being invited to submit questions via e-mail to redistricting2012@minneapolismn.gov.

Public hearings on draft maps will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29 at the Webber Community Center, 4400 Dupont Ave. N., and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 1 at the Hosmer Library, 347 E. 36th St.

Two additional public hearings will be held after the final maps have been produced. Those meetings have not yet been scheduled.