A Sunset Hills committee has been tasked with redrawing the city’s ward boundaries by early next month.
Data from the 2010 census showed the population in the city’s four wards was uneven, which necessitates redistricting, according to Mayor Bill Nolan.
The Board of Aldermen voted last week to establish a committee comprised of a chairman and one appointee from each alderman.
The group held an organizational meeting last week and plans to meet again at 7:15 p.m. today — Sept. 22 — in the public works conference room at City Hall, 3939 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Nolan named former Ward 4 Alderman Frank Gregory as chairman of the committee, which also includes Jim Rode and Drew Baebler of Ward 1; Mary Wuennenberg and Cliff Underwood of Ward 2; Ann Ludlow of Ward 3; and Art Havener and former Mayor Mike Svoboda of Ward 4.
A second Ward 3 resident will be appointed to replace the original appointee, who determined he would be unable to serve on the committee, Nolan said.
The mayor said he and City Clerk Laura Rider attended a seminar Sept. 9 about redistricting “and the situations under which cities are required to do it.”
“It centers around ‘one person, one vote’ … and there’s a benchmark in what determines whether you’re too far out of balance in the distribution of the voters versus the representatives,” Nolan told the committee during its Sept. 22 kickoff meeting.
Based on a total census population of 8,496, the target population for each Sunset Hills ward should be 2,124.
“Now that’s all right if one ward was a little smaller and another ward was just a little bigger,” said Nolan, who noted Ward 4 was the largest with 2,300 people and Ward 2 had the smallest population with 2,039. “But the formula that’s used to determine whether you’re within parameters or out of it is you take the difference between the biggest ward and the average and the percentage is 8.2 percent. Then you take the difference between the smallest ward and the average and the difference is 4 percent.”
Those numbers then are added together and compared with a threshold of 10 percent. Sunset Hills now is at 12.2 percent.
“If you’re over 10, you need to redistrict,” Nolan said.
The city must deliver the new ward maps to the county Board of Election Commissioners by Monday, Oct. 17, “which means we need to pass it or approve it on Oct. 11 at the next Board of Aldermen meeting,” Nolan told the committee.
He added that the Oct. 17 deadline could be delayed a month if Missouri lawmakers move the presidential primary to March from February.
“But we can’t bet on that,” Nolan said.
If the city doesn’t redistrict, Ward 4 residents “unhappy with an election could file suit that we’re at 12.2 (percent)” and claim they aren’t adequately represented, the mayor said.
“The challenge is to redistribute the population so that, hypothetically, you get exactly 2,124 people in each one of these sections,” Nolan said. “Or, that when we’re finished redistributing the people, the difference between the smallest ward and the average and the largest ward and the average doesn’t total over 10 (percent).”
Gregory said he has identified four strategies the committee could use to redistrict the city.
“One, we can move as few people as possible to bring the ratios into the guidelines. Two, we could adjust a lot of wards, shifting a lot of people around to come up with the numbers that fit within the framework. Three, we could eliminate all of the boundaries and just start over, create four new wards if you will. And the fourth would be to create a fifth ward,” he said.
“So those are the options I think we can consider,” the chairman added. “I personally believe less is better, to be honest with you, so that the simpler we keep the process, the easier it’s going to be I think for us …”