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Committee recommends choice of 2 borough redistricting plans

Voters will decide fate of plans - one for 9 districts, one for 11

Posted: June 26, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: December 13, 2011 - 12:04pm
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Proposed nine-district borough apportionment  Courtesy of Kenai Peninsula Borough GIS department
Courtesy of Kenai Peninsula Borough GIS department
Proposed nine-district borough apportionment

The Kenai Peninsula Borough reapportionment committee unanimously approved a motion Wednesday to introduce an ordinance before the Borough Assembly proposing the fate of how the area’s districts are to be drawn.

The committee recommends that voters have a choice between two options — a nine-district or 11-district borough apportionment — with each district having a representative on the assembly and a representative on the Kenai Peninsula School District Board of Education.

An ordinance outlining the ballot question will be introduced to the borough assembly July 5 and will be sponsored by assembly members Linda Murphy and Bill Smith.

“The committee felt like the nine-member assembly was working fine — there wasn’t any big reason to change it — but because of the state law, we have to put the issue on the ballot,” Smith said.

In early May, the assembly adopted a resolution to form a reapportionment committee charged with redrawing the lines of the current nine-district borough to fit population statistics included in the 2010 census.

The committee reviewed and discussed a nine-district, 11-district and 13-district configuration, but settled on putting the nine and 11-district configurations before voters based on discussion and public feedback.

According to the committee’s final report, adding two more districts to the borough would cost $24,161 per additional assembly member and $17,707 per additional board of education member.

Committee members also discussed whether it was possible to have at least one school facility in the boundaries of each district and found only one area — District 1 — did not have a facility.

At the June 16 meeting in Homer, a resident proposed a three-district configuration with three members from each district serving at large within the district, keeping the total at nine members to each body. The committee discussed the idea at its Wednesday meeting, but didn’t find much support for the idea.

Smith said the idea was not a completely new idea, but it still was “not a good deal.”

“Let’s say that Kenai, south Kenai and Nikiski were one district, but it was felt (by the committee) that the concentration of people would end up...dominating,” he said. “So you could potentially have two assembly members who live two blocks from each other representing a large district.”

Maps of the two proposed plans have been released on the borough’s website, but borough GIS manager Bill Holloway stressed the maps were conceptual, and not set in stone.

Borough attorney Colette Thompson said the assembly would need to introduce and adopt an ordinance finalizing those boundaries after the election.

Since the last census data from 2000, one major population shift occurred, Holloway said. Since Seward lost population over the decade and Homer gained population, GIS staff reduced the geographical span of District 5 to become more centralized on the Sterling and Funny River area. District 6, as proposed in the new nine-district plan, would expand further west past Cooper Landing and more toward Sterling.

In the new proposed district map, each district in the nine-member plan contains anywhere between 5,954 residents and 6,374 residents.

In the proposed 11-district plan, each district contains between 4,849 residents and 5,162.

• District 1 of the proposed 11-district plan includes Anchor Point, Happy Valley, Ninilchik, Clam Gulch and Cohoe and the southwest side of Cook Inlet.

• District 2 includes the far eastern side of the Peninsula, Seward and Lowell Point areas, north to Moose Pass.

• District 3 includes Nikiski, Point Possession and across the Cook Inlet to Tyonek, Beluga.

• District 4 runs through the middle of the Peninsula and includes Hope, Sunrise, Cooper Landing and Funny River.

• District 5 includes the city of Homer.

• District 6 includes the Salamatof area, northeast Kenai, Ridgeway and Sterling.

• District 7 includes the southern Kalifornski and Kasilof area extending southwest into the Cohoe area.

• District 8 includes the Diamond Ridge, Fritz Creek, Halibut Cove, Seldovia and Kachemak areas.

• District 9 includes most of the city of Kenai.

• District 10 includes north Kalifornski, and the Kenai River area south into the northwest corner of Soldotna.

• District 11 includes the city of Soldotna.

Holloway said the process of developing the two plans revolved around two primary concerns — geography and community.

“So we start aggregating trying to keep it as compact of an area as we can and preserve a sense of community, so keep it as localized in that community as we can until we get enough population together to come close to our target,” he said.

He likened the process to cutting up a slice of pie — if you cut one slice larger, somebody else’s slice gets smaller.

“It is not ever going to be ideal, so we do the best we can,” he said.

Smith said he wasn’t sure an 11-district configuration would be best for the borough.

“I don’t really see a benefit to it,” he said. “I mean you could say that with that many assembly members, then they would represent a smaller geographic area...but, from my perspective, it is just going to be more expensive to have more assembly members and I think what we have now works pretty good. You have got pretty good representation from across the borough.”

Smith said he prefers the current system.

“It works well and the people on the assembly in my experience, they’re familiar with their areas and they make sure that the interest of the area is well-represented,” he said. “But in the end, everybody on the assembly represents everybody in the borough — we understand that our actions affect everybody and it is important we consider everyone’s interest, not just the area we come from.”

To view the two proposed plans and the areas the districts would represent, visit

http://mapserver.borough.kenai.ak.us/flexviewer/default.html?config=config-9member.xml, and http://mapserver.borough.kenai.ak.us/flexviewer/default.html?config=conf..., or view this story on www.peninsulaclarion.com.

 

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