Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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December 3, 2012

Goshen council to vote on new districts

GOSHEN — Goshen City Council members will vote on new district lines within the city of Goshen at Tuesday’s meeting.

State statute requires cities to redraw City Council districts every 10 years, according to an email from Mayor Allan Kauffman to council members. The redrawing should be done in the second year after a federal census is conducted, according to the statue, making 2012 the required year.

Kauffman said there are more minor changes than anything else with the new district lines.

“This is more trying to be fair in the drawing of lines than anything else,” Kauffman said Friday.

Districts don’t have specific instructions when it comes to the percentage of population variance from district to district, according to the email. A federal legal case sets a precedent of 10 percent or less, but Kauffman said that was impossible to create without splitting districts.

The current plan has districts at 16.4 percent variance, with an average district population of 6,343 people, Kauffman wrote. District 3 has the highest population with 6,801 people, and District 4 has a low of 5,758 people.

“This variance is lower than the plan adopted 10 years ago, which was 16.9 percent,” Kauffman wrote.

The city’s district lines are drawn after the county redraws its voting precincts, he said. Most years, the City Council has been able to create the council districts without cutting any county voting precincts — but not this year.

“It got a little dicey this year with drawing city precincts,” Kauffman said. “Now, there are around nine precincts that are divided by the city limits and council district lines.”

City departments had to analyze each precinct individually, finding what population was within city limits and what wasn’t. It was also a conscious effort to find a way to keep the districts to precinct boundaries, not splitting precincts within the city limits.

With all this effort put into the proposed plan, it still may change. Kauffman said the last time district boundaries were redrawn, the council changed it.

“Ten years ago, we presented a plan, and the Republicans took it and then presented one with a wider population variance than the one we presented,” Kauffman said.

The Republican-drawn map put the fastest growing precinct in the largest district. There is a current population variance of greater than 22 percent, according to Kauffman’s email.

“Council should avoid doing this again to lessen the possibility of legal challenge,” Kauffman wrote. “The plan being presented has the highest populated district being one of the most stable in growth. The districts with more growth will tend to reduce the variance over time, not increase it.”

He didn’t know how Tuesday’s vote will go, and said he has emailed state officials to see what action would happen if an agreement could not be met by the end of the year. The state officials said they didn’t know either, as they didn’t have precedent for it, he said.

Another consideration was keeping council members in as close to a district as what they have now, so they do not have to resign or run against one another for re-election.

“It’s not always easy to keep council members in their same district,” Kauffman said.

One new part of the redistricting looks major, but is really a minor change, according to Kauffman. The city area containing the airport, among other things, will become part of councilwoman Julia Gautsche’s district, if the plan passes. It’s currently part of councilman Everett Thomas’ district.

“It looks big, but there’s not that big of a population down there,” Kauffman said. “It also keeps the U.S. 33 corridor in one district.”

The meeting begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Police/Courts Building. The council members will also look at proposed changes to the zoning ordinance, a proposed rezoning of property, an additional appropriations ordinance and board and commission appointments and reappointments.

 

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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