Redistricting panel to present report to Sunset Hills aldermen next month

Last redistricting on record in Sunset Hills was in 1997.

By EVAN YOUNG

Less than 80 residents would be affected by Sunset Hills’ redistricting under the plan that will be presented to the Board of Aldermen next month.

The city’s Redistricting Committee voted 7-0 last week to endorse a proposal that would move a small section of Ward 4 into Ward 3, affecting a total of 79 residents.

Committee member Mary Wuennenberg of Ward 2 was absent from the committee’s Sept. 22 meeting.

The committee will present its proposal to aldermen when the board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at City Hall, 3939 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

Mayor Bill Nolan has said the city must have its new ward map to the county Board of Election Commissioners by Oct. 17.

Results from the 2010 census showed Sunset Hills’ four wards were uneven and needed new boundaries. Based on a total census population of 8,496, the target population for each Sunset Hills ward should be 2,124.

However, the deviation between the city’s largest ward — Ward 4, with 2,300 people — and smallest ward — Ward 2, with 2,039 people — is 12.2 percent, exceeding a 10-percent maximum under the formula used to determine compliance with the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

If Sunset Hills doesn’t redistrict, Ward 4 residents could mount a successful legal challenge against the city after an election, claiming they are inadequately represented, Nolan has said.

Committee members arrived at last week’s meeting with five redistricting options and eventually agreed on a solution presented by committee member Art Havener of Ward 4 that would move a section of Gravois Township Precinct 57 from Ward 4 into Ward 3.

The proposal would redistrict 79 residents but would not displace any aldermen.

The area is generally bounded by Interstate 270 to the north and east and Weber Hill Road to the south. It includes the Grandview neighborhood.

The proposal would increase the Ward 3 population to 2,166 and decrease that of Ward 4 to 2,221.

The population of Wards 1 and 2 would remain unchanged at 2,055 people and 2,039 people, respectively.

As a result, the deviation between the largest and smallest wards would fall into compliance at 8.6 percent.

Havener’s solution drew from another option prepared by committee member and former Mayor Mike Svoboda of Ward 4.

Svoboda suggested moving the entire Gravois Township precinct to Ward 3, redistricting 103 residents and producing a 7-percent deviation.

During a roughly hourlong discussion last week, the committee debated whether it should concentrate on finding a solution that redistricted the fewest residents or one that would produce the most equally populated wards — and, thus, a smaller percent deviation.

By focusing on the latter, some committee members contended, the city may avoid having to redistrict after the next census.

For example, an option prepared by Ann Ludlow of Ward 3 would have redistricted 585 residents but lowered the deviation to 5 percent.

However, committee Chairman Frank Gregory, a former Ward 4 alderman, said the group should avoid trying to predict population growth over the next decade and stick with current census figures. Redistric-ing likely will take place again no matter what the committee proposes, he contended.

“Realistically speaking, ‘one person, one vote’ is a global kind of concept,” Gregory said. “In a municipality with 9,000 people, I don’t see our form of government lacking representation because it doesn’t matter if I live in Ward 1 or Ward 4 — I represent the city. When it comes down to it, I think each ward is well-represented regardless of the population density.”

He added, “… It’s a little bit treacherous for us to predict where the (population) growth is going to be. To forecast what’s going to happen eight to 10 years from now is a bit of a slippery slope. And I’m not sure that’s our charge.”

Sunset Hills’ last redistricting on record was in 1997, according to City Clerk Laura Rider. That year, the city annexed 422 acres and added 1,310 residents.

Aldermen voted Sept. 13 to establish a Redistricting Committee comprised of a chairman and one appointee from each board member.

Nolan named Gregory as chairman of the committee, which also includes Jim Rode and Drew Baebler of Ward 1; Wuennenberg and Cliff Underwood of Ward 2; Ludlow and Kurt Krueger of Ward 3 and Havener and Svoboda of Ward 4.