November 25, 2011 in City

Downtown shifts districts

But annexation plans to cause imbalance
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Council district populations

District 1 (Northeast)

2000: 64,992

2010:  71,389 (current boundaries)

2010:  69,693 (boundaries starting in 2012)

District 2 (South)

2000: 64,849

2010:  68,426 (current boundaries)

2010:  70,122 (boundaries starting in 2012)

District 3 (Northwest)

2000: 67,254

2010:  69,101 (current boundaries)

2010:  69,101 (boundaries starting in 2012)

Downtown Spokane residents who voted for Councilman-elect Mike Fagan won’t be represented by him once he’s sworn in.

That’s because the main core of Spokane will shift Jan. 1 from the city’s northeast City Council district, District 1, into District 2, which predominantly sits in the South Hill area.

The Spokane Decennial Districting Board decided to shift the boundary to better balance the population of the city’s three districts.

The Spokane City Council this week voted unanimously to support the plan.

Marjorie Brewer, a districting board member, said there was little controversy over how to craft the districts. Most people who testified to the group said the three districts generally have done a good job of providing representation, she said, so there was no consideration of making big changes in the boundaries.

Brewer, who co-founded Spokane Catholic Credit Union, said she had hoped to unite the East Central neighborhood through the process by placing it all in one district, but that doing so would have made the council districts too unbalanced.

Downtown was chosen to move into the south district because the board felt it has more in common with Browne’s Addition and other nearby neighborhoods that already were in the district.

As of now, the new district lines each include about a third of the city’s population. But the same day the new boundaries become effective, another change will throw the districts slightly off balance.

The city will annex about 10 square miles of the West Plains Jan. 1. It also will become part of the south district, which it borders, adding several hundred residents to the district. A proposed annexation of the Moran Prairie could cause further imbalance.

City officials said state law didn’t allow the board to consider annexations and the board was limited to 2010 census data and the city’s boundaries at the end of 2010.

“We bumped our heads against it several times,” said Brewer, who is married to former Councilman Mike Brewer. “We were very careful to keep saying, ‘No we can’t consider that.’ ”

The City Charter will allow the council to reconsider the boundaries in five years. The charter requires the boundaries to be redrawn for each census.

“It’s just going to create an imbalance where one district is going to have significantly more residents then we’ve had for the past 10 years, as far as the balance is concerned,” Councilman Jon Snyder said.

But Councilwoman Amber Waldref noted that other annexations in other districts are likely to occur in the next decade.

“In the next two years there might be an imbalance, but then two or three years later it could be balanced back up again,” Waldref said. “It’s not going to stay static forever.”

Council President Joe Shogan said the board did the best it could.

“This board accomplished its requirement and its mandate really, really close,” he said.

Starting Jan. 1 the main core of downtown will be represented by Snyder and either Mike Allen or Councilman Richard Rush, depending on who wins a recount of votes from the November election.

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