“Please don’t divide our neighborhood,” plead residents during a discussion of the redesigned Flint City neighborhood boundary map
By Tom Travis
âPlease don’t divide our neighborhood. We are a strong neighborhood. Please don’t, âargued Chris Gardner, resident of Seventh Ward and College-Cultural Neighborhood. She was among a dozen residents, mostly from the cultural district of Seventh Ward College, who gathered at Flint Town Hall on Wednesday for an Election Commission meeting to discuss the proposed redesigned plan of the district.
The EVM previously reported that Flint City Council and community members have 90 days to discuss and review the city’s redesigned neighborhood boundaries, according to city attorney Angela Wheeler. The city council will definitively approve the new limits.
The nine districts of the city are redrawn based on new data from the 2020 census and as required by the city charter. At a special November 18 city council meeting held in the dome behind City Hall, the public and city council members had a first opportunity to view the proposed redesigned neighborhood boundary map and offer their contribution. City attorney Angela Wheeler informed council that evening because of the pandemic the reshuffle had been delayed.
The public can share their comments and suggestions by mail or email. Comments can be mailed to City Clerk Inez Brown, Second Floor, 1101 South Saginaw Street, Flint MI 48502 or emailed to [email protected] No future meeting to cover this issue has been announced at this time.
9,028 is the target population for the redesigned neighborhood boundaries
Ken Koleda, Director of Geographic Information System (GIS) for Genesee County, led the process of calculating and redefining neighborhood boundaries based on 2020 census data. The target population for each neighborhood is 9,028 people, Koleda said. According to a 54-page report on UM-Flint’s 2017 Parish Profile the populations of the districts ranged from 9,660 in district 3, the smallest in population, to 13,302 in district 8, the largest in population.
However, in order for the population of each of the nine wards to be less than one percent of 9028, the boundaries need to be redrawn. The recent Census 2020 reported that Flint has lost 20,000 residents over the past ten years, falling to 81,000. This is a 21% decrease and the lowest population of Flint since the 1910 census.
The Flint Election Commission is made up of City Clerk Inez Brown, City Evaluator Stacey Kaake, and Deputy City Attorney JoAnne Gurley. The electoral commission and Ken Koleda, director of the Geographic Information System (GIS) for Genesee County, were present at Wednesday’s meeting. Koleda, once again, presented the draft neighborhood boundary map.
College-Cultural Neighborhood Association president calls for proposed map to be redesigned
Mike Keeler, a Seventh Ward resident and president of the College-Cultural Quarter Association (CCNA), said, âThe CCNA has 1,300 households and we are a strong neighborhood association. Based on phone calls and viewing posts on Facebook, we are 100% against this card. It basically divides our neighborhood in two.
âOur neighborhood is 103 years old,â Keeler said. âIt was never split in half and we are not going to put up with it now. It deprives us of the right to vote and weakens us politically.
Keeler has requested that the southern border of the Seventh Ward, I-69, remain as it is now. In the redrawn map of the Seventh Ward, the neighborhood’s southern border is extended below (south) of I-69. Keeler said the Independent Commission [Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission] recommends that cities when redrawing neighborhood boundaries not to divide or divide neighborhoods.
Keeler suggested that the electoral commission redraw the map, stressing that one of the MICRC’s standards for redistribution is “not to divide neighborhoods”.
âWe’ve been working since 1992 to collect emails and phone numbers and build a community. Our neighborhood wants to stay whole, âKeeler pleaded. He said there are a hundred different ways to draw the cards.
After the meeting, GEV asked Koleda if he was ready to redraw the map. He said he will take requests from the Electoral Commission to redraw the map.
City Clerk Inez Brown said this was only the first draft of the map. Nothing on the map has yet been approved by city council, she said.
Seventh Quarter resident discusses concept of “communities of interest”
Another Seventh Ward and CCN resident, Larry Anderson, prefaced his comments by saying his thoughts were more “philosophical.” Anderson said the MICRC state uses “communities of interest” as one of its guiding principles.
He explained that âcommunities of interestâ are geographic areas that share common interests and wish to be seen as a voting bloc. And, to the extent possible, these redrawn boundary maps respect the feedback they receive from citizens on how they identify their communities of interest.
Suggestion: Wait eight years, adjust the charter
Mark Baldwin, a resident of Third Ward, suggested taking the next eight years and making charter adjustments, zoning in and “starting to put Flint on a foundation we can build on.” Baldwin said, “then at the next census  we are seriously considering how to adjust neighborhood boundaries.
Returning to his seat, Baldwin added that he believed the charter should be adjusted to reduce the number of Flint’s wards from nine to seven. City Clerk Brown noted that it takes about a year to change part of it. the charter because the state is involved.
Map of Flint neighborhood available from Flint Neighborhoods United
Joel Arnold, a resident of Seventh Ward and Central Park Neighborhood and also the Planning and Advocacy Coordinator at Communities First, Inc. recognized the difficulty of mapping neighborhoods and knowing where the neighborhood boundaries are. Arnold suggested that the Election Commission and the SIG examine a neighborhood map that Flint Neighborhoods United developed.
Councilors Herkenroder and Pfeiffer call to “listen to the locals”
Two members of the council were present at the meeting of the electoral commission, councilors Dennis Pfeiffer (district 8) and Allie Herkenroder (district 7). Pfeiffer said he has looked at the cards and realizes he will lose 20% of his constituency with the current proposed card adding: “There is no way around this.”
Pfeiffer told the commission he “would encourage this organization to listen to residents.” We are already a divided city, and it is important that these people are heard and that the communities stay together as much as possible. “
Councilor Allie Herkenroder (Ward 7) acknowledged that most of the residents attending the meeting were from her ward and from the CCN. She noted that her own home would remain in the Seventh Ward for just a few hundred feet, according to the proposed redesigned ward boundary map. Herkenroder called on the commission “to work in tandem with the residents to ensure that our neighborhoods are not divided”.
Redesigning “an opportunity to start afresh”
Paul Herring, resident of the historic Fifth Ward and Carriage Town, said, âI see it differently. This is the opportunity to start afresh in Flint. We had nine departments when we had 200,000 people. We’re well below 100,000 now. We must consolidate. “
Herring suggested another way to draw neighborhood boundaries by “laying a coin on a map above downtown and from there drawing five pie wedges to draw the neighborhood boundaries, making each one of the five district councilors responsible for the city center â.
Herring argued that he did not see the new neighborhood boundaries affecting these organizations [the established Flint neighborhoods]. He added that neighborhoods that are âhistorically strong will always exist. The lines on the map should not prevent them from doing what they are doing. Neighborhoods that are strong will stay together. Stacey Kaake, member of the Election Commission, who is also an assessor for the town of Flint, stressed that with the current map of the neighborhood having the CCN split in two, “wouldn’t it be better to have two votes on the council? one ?
CCNA President Keeler rose from his seat to respond, âThe way they drew the boundaries of the wards, the wards would be in wards four and seven. I don’t think our current rep would stand a chance. to win the seventh room, so we would end up losing that.
“Then we’d be so out of the way of Fourth that we probably wouldn’t be listened to anyway. It would be much better to have us all together so that we can have one voice when there is a problem rather than half the neighborhood having a voice.
GEV Editor-in-chief Tom Travis can be contacted at [email protected]