The Douglas County Commission today went the first round in its redistricting efforts without reaching an agreement.
Each commissioner presented his own plan on how to redraw the boundaries of the county's three districts. The boundaries are required to shift because the 1990 census showed a population imbalance in the three present districts.
Currently, Commissioner Louie McElhaney's 3rd District is the most populous, with 32,562 residents. Mark Buhler, who was unanimously elected as commission chairman at the beginning of the meeting, has 25,583 residents in his 1st District. Commissioner Mike Amyx has the least number of residents, 23,653, in his 2nd District.
The 1990 census tabulated 81,798 residents in the county. Dividing that number by three, the ideal number represented by each commissioner would be 27,266.
BECAUSE of the mathematics needed to balance the districts, each proposed plan took away precincts from McElhaney's district. McElhaney suggested putting Lecompton and Big Springs, two rural precincts in the northwest part of the county, into Buhler's 1st District.
McElhaney also planned to shift two city precincts, the 1st and 2nd precincts in the 1st Ward, into Amyx's district. Both precincts include parts of the Oread Neighborhood.
But Amyx pointed out those two precincts do not border his district, and the commission wants to avoid creating "island" areas in its redistricting efforts.
Amyx proposed a plan that would take Buhler's three westernmost precincts in the city, including the Deerfield area, and put them in McElhaney's district, and shift three of McElhaney's city precincts, in the Oread area, to Buhler's district.
AMYX'S PLAN also would move two precincts from McElhaney's district to his own. One precinct includes part of University Place neighborhood. The other, the 8th precinct, 3rd Ward, is in south Lawrence, immediately east of Iowa Street.
Buhler presented two proposals. In the first plan, Buhler would take the Lecompton and North Wakarusa precincts from McElhaney's district, while Amyx would get the same two precincts from McElhaney as Amyx had proposed.
In his second plan, Buhler would take two Oread precincts and a far west Lawrence precinct from McElhaney's district. Buhler also would give Amyx two precincts east of the Santa Fe tracks in east Lawrence.
All the commissioners' plans would put the districts in the desired 27,000-population range.
McElhaney said he would like to keep two precincts, North Wakarusa and the 8th Precinct in the 3rd Ward. He said he wanted North Wakarusa, which is north and west of Lawrence, because it is in Wakarusa Township. McElhaney added he wanted the other precinct because it is in south Lawrence and close to his rural constituency.
BUHLER SAID North Wakarusa would fit into his district because it borders his northwest Lawrence district. He said while North Wakarusa is in Wakarusa Township, the township is divided by Lawrence's city limits. The other two Wakarusa precincts are south of Lawrence.
The commission will tackle the issue again at next Monday's meeting.