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Cleveland Councilmen Spar over Redistricting

Those most affected by the change are residents of Old Brooklyn, Brooklyn Center, and Mount Pleasant. Those neighborhoods will be split into a number of wards. And those places just happen to be represented by two of Council President Martin Sweeney’s fiercest critics: councilmen Zack Reed and Brian Cummins.

For Cummins, this reeks of politics.

CUMMINS: People are angry. People are fed up. And this map that we see today is basically a continuation of the status quo of the current ward boundaries. That’s what it is.

Cummins and Reed will lose their wards, and have to run against other councilmembers in the next election.

Without saying so directly, Councilman Reed pointed the finger at Sweeney, as the behind-the-scenes manipulator of these new ward boundaries.
REED: Got a call the other day, yesterday as a matter of fact, that said you understand why they’re doing this to you and Brian, it’s because you stood up to the Medical Mart. I don’t know.

Sweeney didn’t respond to the charges.

Councilman Cummins also questioned the twisty shapes of the new wards, wondering about potential racism or political considerations.

Bob Dykes, a consultant paid by the city to redraw the boundaries, said some shapes are the result of accommodating various councilmembers’ pet projects when drawing the lines. He said you can’t please everyone when you work on a change like this.

DYKES: If Councilmen Cummins or Councilman Reed or someone else had drawn another map, it might not be the people of Old Brooklyn and Mt Pleasant sitting in this chamber, but we would have people from some other neighborhood in this chamber. Because whenever you reduce the number of wards, whichever wards are combined together, or reduced, it does have an effect on the neighborhoods.

Like Cummins, Scott Bailey, a resident of the South Hills section of Cleveland, complained about the lack of transparency and compressed timeframe.

BAILEY: It’s Friday, you all are going to decide this Monday, we heard about this on the end of the day Wednesday, and so this has not been a deliberative process.

Most councilpeople are behind the ward changes. According to some members, the real issue here is Cleveland’s sustained shedding of population. Councilman Mike Polensek warned of more flight to the suburbs—and consequently, an even smaller city council in the near future—is inevitable if policies don’t change.

POLENSEK: We collectively have got to figure out how we start to stabilize the outer-edge wards. The Lee-Harvards, the Old Brooklyns, the Shaker Square areas, the Detroit Shoreways…

The council is required to vote by the end of the month on the council-shrinking, and all indications are that vote will occur Monday night. Cummins asked that be pushed back another week, though that seems unlikely.

And, get ready for a new redistricting fight in just a couple of years. Following next year’s census, city council will again redraw its boundaries, reflecting what’s expected to be an even smaller population.