Thursday, March 17, 2016

Drawing new lines for City Council

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 1:08 PM

Here are how the City Council districts look today. This might change for the next city election in April 2017. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • Here are how the City Council districts look today. This might change for the next city election in April 2017.

City Council is due to begin the process of selecting members of an advisory committee for redistricting of Council districts on April 9.

Thus, City Clerk Sarah Johnson is due to provide an overview of the procedure at the 11:30 a.m. Tuesday meeting of Council in an informal lunch setting at City Hall, 107 E. Kiowa St.

Last go round, redistricting caused a stir among the black community when no consideration was given to minority populations. That's because the city's Charter doesn't require minority populations to be taken into account, Johnson explained at that time.

Rather, this is the requirement, as explained by Johnson in an email to the Independent received Thursday:
City Charter requires the City Clerk to redraw council districts every 4 years. City Clerk must redraw district boundaries at least 120 days but no more than 150 days prior than the 4/4/2017 municipal election. Purpose is to ensure the districts are substantially equal in population and contiguous. Redistricting is based on population not on registered voters.

City Code requires a council appointed advisory committee to gather citizen input to aide City Clerk. City council must begin their committee appointment process by 4/9. 
One question that always arises when redistricting comes around is whether the boundaries will be drawn in a way that affects the candidacy of incumbent Council members in the coming election. The following district representatives will be up for re-election in April 2017: Don Knight in northwest District 1; Larry Bagley in north District 2; Keith King in southwest District 3; Helen Collins in southeast District 4; Jill Gaebler in central District 5, and Andy Pico in eastern District 6. (The other three members — Merv Bennett, Tom Strand and Bill Murray — are elected and large and began their four-year terms in April 2015.)

Collins, for one, lives very near the northern boundary of her district, Airport Road, so it makes sense to ask whether the boundaries will be redrawn to disqualify her from that race, which isn't to say she couldn't run in another district. If the northern boundary of her district is pushed south beyond her residence, she would wind up in District 5.

In any event, don't count on being able to learn anything from the Tuesday session, unless you show up in person. That's because no recordings are made of these meetings, which always precede the 1 p.m. Tuesday formal Council sessions and often include discussion of weighty subjects, such as road repairs and development issues.

We've asked Council Administrator Eileen Gonzalez to confirm that recordings and minutes aren't made, as she told us in 2013. We haven't heard back but will update if things have changed. From that earlier report:
Nor can you know how discussions unfold during "work sessions" in a City Hall conference room 90 minutes before every formal Council meeting. Again, no minutes or recordings are made.

And that won't change.

Citing a city attorney's opinion that says no minutes are required by law for meetings where no action is contemplated or taken, Council Administrator Eileen Gonzalez says anything that's discussed in subcommittee meetings "ultimately results in action by the Council ... in a regular meeting that's recorded" in written minutes and electronically.
That means if the groundwork for a major decision is laid during one of these "lunch bunch" meetings, as Councilor Collins calls them, there's no way the public can reconstruct that.

While the meetings are posted as required by the Open Meetings Act, they're not listed among meetings on the city's website for which agendas are available in advance and minutes are available after the fact.

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