KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There were accusations of gerrymandering and a “war” declared between the North and the South.
Although it might sound like a description of the Civil War, it all played out at Kansas City’s council meeting Thursday as the council approved new districts lines for the city.
Every 10 years as the population changes throughout the city and a census is taken, the council is tasked with redistricting.
Over the past decade, Kansas City’s population grew more than 10%, with most of that growth in the Northland. For the past three months, a redistricting commission worked to find a way to divide the roughly half million people of Kansas into six equal districts, while also protecting minority voting rights and representation.
The results: a map none of the council members in the city’s Northland supported.
“These are the people in the Northland, in our districts 1 and 2, that want a horizontal map, that many pieces of paper, and this many pieces of paper of people who wanted a vertical map,” said Councilwoman Heather Hall, demonstrating by holding a much longer stack.
On Thursday, those council members submitted an amendment that would have kept Platte and Clay counties mostly in different districts, instead of splitting in them in half horizontally along Barry Road.
The motion failed 7-6, much to the disappointment of Northland residents who packed the meeting, holding signs saying, “Connect don’t divide.”
“We need to connect as a city, and we’re not connecting as a city,” Jennie Walters said.
From that point on, every other minor amendment to the map went the same way: with the Northland council members unsuccessfully attempting to block the amendments.
“It was OK to amend for the 4th District. It was OK to amend for the 5th District, but nothing for the Northland. We were just told no sit down, shut up. You’re going to do this,” Councilwoman Teresa Loar said.
“If you want to have a South-North war, yeah,” Councilman Brandon Ellington said casting his vote.
With the map approved drastically changing Northland districts, there was no agreement on whether it’s a council divided.
“It has been divided now for a year and a half now, and it’s getting worse by the day,” Loar said. “And this pretty much put the nail in the coffin.”
“There are going to be some who try to deride this process as divisive. I don’t see it that way. I see it as making sure we are representing everybody in Kansas City well,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said.
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