St. Paul’s Charter Commission adopts new map of city neighborhoods after frantic month of planning – Twin Cities


Danielle Swift, a community organizer with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association, asks the St. Paul Charter Commission to take more time and consider an alternative neighborhood redistricting map submitted by advocacy organization Common Cause. Facing a tight statutory deadline, the commission beginning February 18, 2022 engaged Park Street Public consultants to develop several map options, held public hearings over the course of a week, and adopted the proposed neighborhood map on Wednesday, entitled Option 6. (Frederick Mélo)

Residents living west of Lake Como and south of Hoyt Avenue will soon wake up to Ward 5, the political geography represented by St. Paul City Council President Amy Brendmoen that already encompasses their neighbors east of the lake.

Elsewhere in the city, residents on the south side of Summit Avenue east of Western Avenue — a historically white and affluent community — will find themselves in Ward 1, which is largely anchored by multi-racial and mixed-income Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods.

The St. Paul Charter Commission approved a new neighborhood map on Wednesday, capping a month-long frantic redistricting effort that drew last-minute objections from advocacy organization Common Cause and several organizers. community.

The St. Paul Charter Commission on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, approved a new neighborhood map, capping a month-long frantic redistricting effort that drew last-minute objections from advocacy organization Common Cause and of several community organizers.  (screenshot)
The St. Paul Charter Commission on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 approved a new neighborhood map, capping a frantic month-long redistricting effort. (screenshot)

Commission Chairman Brian Alton acknowledged that 10 years ago the same process was taking place over months. This time around, major delays in the U.S. census and legislative redistricting of states have truncated the city’s timeline, much to the chagrin of some community watchers.

The commission’s work began around February 18, and public hearings on a series of six map proposals have been held in person and virtually over the past week.

In the end, the charter commission voted almost unanimously to approve “Option 6”, which keeps the existing seven ward layouts largely intact with some bleeding around the edges, especially for wards North End and Como. The city’s 95 electoral districts were reorganized into 87 districts, and residents of Ward 4 in the Como Park area were largely moved to Ward 5.

This remains unconfirmed, but no sitting city council members appear to have been redistributed in the same ward.

BALANCED NEIGHBORHOOD POPULATIONS, A MISSED OPPORTUNITY?

Consultants at St. Paul-based Park Street Public said that, in line with U.S. Supreme Court rulings calling for “one man, one vote,” they worked to balance neighborhood populations, keeping each of the city’s seven political districts within approximately 83 people from each. other, or in two-tenths of 1 percent of about 44,500 inhabitants each. They also complied with new state legislative boundaries.

Alton noted that the city council resolution authorizing the redistricting work specifically called out the importance of equal-sized neighborhoods as a top priority, followed by compactness, adjacency, physical features, racial “communities of interest.” and social and easy access to large polling stations.

ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL

Bruce Corrie, an economist at Concordia University and former director of the city’s planning and economic development department, raised an objection in a public hearing before the vote, noting that the city was missing an opportunity for transformation. “The outdated notion of the ‘least change’ principle undermines 60 years of progress,” he said.

With an eye on the city’s racial demographics and in a bit of a last minute Hail Mary Sunday, voting rights organization Common Cause has submitted an alternative proposal that calls for more fundamental changes, particularly in district 1 in the center of the city.


Below is the map of the outgoing neighborhoods of St. Paul, in effect for the past decade. Click “learn more” to compare the six options recently reviewed by the St. Paul Charter Commission, which approved Option 6 on March 16, 2022.


The Common Cause map would expand Ward 1 from Allianz Field to CHS Field, giving the landlocked Central Ward a second major sports arena. It would also expand Ward 2 – already home to a large immigrant community on the west side – deep into Highland Park, to absorb the high-density immigrant housing communities along the south end of West Seventh Street. This would give Ward 2 the potential for a large electoral bloc of immigrants.

“The common cause map is best for inclusion and shared governance,” Corrie said, noting that the map was endorsed by Professor David Schultz of Hamline University Law School, who has written 30 books on the subject. American politics. “It’s neighborhood-centric.”

A BIT MORE TIME

Charter Commissioner Debbie Montgomery, a former St. Paul City Council member, said she liked how the common cause plan prioritized communities of color, but she agreed to vote with the majority and to support Consultant Map 6 after receiving major concessions last week.

An earlier map would have removed Allianz Field from Ward 1 and placed it within the boundaries of Ward 4, a plan it successfully fought against.

“I was able to negotiate that we kept Allianz Field for our economic engine, and Ramsey Hill – Dale at Western – because it’s another economic engine,” Montgomery said.

After speaking out in favor of the Common Cause card, Commissioner Bridget Faricy cast the only dissenting vote against Option 6.

“Can we just have a little more time?” Faricy asked the commission, echoing concerns expressed by community organizer Danielle Swift.

Consultants Brian McClung and David Heller explained that the city faces a March 29 statutory deadline to confirm precinct lines, and Ramsey County is waiting for the city to finalize its maps so it can begin its own. redistricting process.

Bara Berg, a resident of Ward 1 for 40 years, told the committee ahead of the vote that she was relieved to see minimal changes in Ward 1, given how close her corner of the neighborhood was. The ‘Option 6’ card has “the least disruption”, unlike ‘Option 2’, which looks like “a very angry cat that has had surgery”, she said.

“We are very happy together,” Berg said. ” We have things in common. We don’t want to be separated. »

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