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Archive for Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Two district maps considered

December 4, 2001

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County commissioners Monday narrowed their choices to two redistricting proposals that would reorganize county representation in certain sections of Lawrence.

Changes for parts of East Lawrence, Kansas University dormitories, West Lawrence and Wakarusa Township are in store depending which of the two plans commissioners choose.

Commissioners said they will hold a public hearing to receive comments on the plans sometime in January.

"I think most people will feel comfortable with what we're talking about," Commissioner Bob Johnson said. "The great majority of people won't be changing districts."

Commissioners are required by law to redraw the boundaries of the commission's three districts once every 10 years to make them as nearly equal in population as possible.

The placement of East Lawrence the area east of Massachusetts Street, south of the Kansas River and roughly north of 15th Street is the major difference between the two plans that will be presented to the public.

In Map 1, as commissioners have labeled it, East Lawrence would remain in the 1st District, currently represented by Charles Jones. In Map 2, the neighborhood would be moved into the 2nd District, which is currently represented by Johnson.

Jones, a Democrat, has said he would prefer East Lawrence remain a part of his district because the older, lower income, more Democratic-leaning neighborhood may lose some of its strong political voice if it is added to the 2nd District, which is much more rural and includes most of eastern Douglas County.

Johnson, a Republican, has said he believes East Lawrence would be served equally well in the 2nd District but said he is open to either plan.

"I don't have a favorite yet," Johnson said of the two proposals Monday. "I want to hear what the people have to say."

Several other areas would change districts, but are slated to do so in either plan. They include:

l An area of West Lawrence that is west of Monterey Way, east of Wakarusa Drive, south of Sixth Street and north of 15th Street. The area is currently in the 1st District but would move to Jere McElhaney's 3rd District under both plans.

l An area south of the Kansas University campus that includes most of the school's dormitories and family housing would move from the 3rd District to the 1st District.

l Parts of eastern Wakarusa Township, roughly everything east of East 1400 Road, would move out of the 3rd District and into the 2nd District.

Neither of the plans create commission districts that are equal in population, but commissioners said they believe both are close enough to pass legal muster.

In Map 1, the 1st District is approximately 3,300 people larger than the 3rd District and 2,200 people larger than the 2nd District. In Map 2, the 1st District is approximately 3,400 people larger than the 3rd District and 1,200 people larger than the 2nd District.

"With the growth in the 3rd District, in four years I bet they'll be even in population," said McElhaney, a Republican. "I don't think we should make too much out of them not being equal."

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