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Kansas City residents argue about redrawn City Council boundaries

More than 150 people filled the Kansas City Council Chamber at City Hall on Wednesday night to spar over two competing maps that redraw the six council districts.

The City Council must adopt new council boundaries for the second time in a year, in response to population shifts revealed in the 2010 Census, showing loss of urban core population and growth north of the Missouri River.

To make sure each district has about 76,000 residents, the Northland and Southland districts have to shrink, while the 3rd and 5th District geographic boundaries have to grow.

A citizens’ advisory committee recommended one map in October to make the districts more equal in population and to protect traditional minority voting blocs. It has garnered support from Northlanders and from many African-American ministers and organizations and Latino groups.

“Move ahead, people,” former City Councilwoman Carol Coe said, in urging support for the advisory committee map. “This is a no-brainer.”

But that map, which makes major changes to the 4th and 6th Districts, has angered residents and community groups in Brookside, the southwest corridor and in south Kansas City, who offered an alternate proposal.

“Our collective voice has not been heard to date,” said Gunnar Hand, an Armour Hills resident who spoke on behalf of the alternate map.

The continuing debate clearly frustrated some.

“I’m sad that once again, we’ve got parts of the city fighting against other parts of the city,” said Ivanhoe neighborhood leader Margaret May. “We don’t have time for this.”

Both maps would put Districts 1 and 2 entirely north of the Missouri River.

But they each differ in the boundaries for the 4th, 5th and 6th Districts.

Under the advisory committee map, the 4th District’s southern boundary would move north from 79th Street to 59th Street. The district also would knit together traditional Latino strongholds in the West Side and the Old Northeast to make it easier for them to elect a Latino to the City Council.

Much of the 6th District’s northern section would shift into the 5th District, and the 6th District’s northern boundary would drop from 87th Street to Interstate 435.

But Bonnaye Mims, Hickman Mills school board president, urged the council to consider a map that preserves Bannister Mall in the 6th District and that keeps more south Kansas City neighborhoods and community organizations intact in the 6th District. That map also would move the 4th District’s southern boundary to Gregory Boulevard.

Supporters of the advisory committee map complained the alternate map would dilute both African-American and Latino voting power. They warned it will soon be out of population balance again because of the city’s growth trends.

The council took no action Wednesday night but must approve new boundaries by the end of the year.

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