By AMANDA GRAY
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Goshen City Council members may spend part of New Year’s Eve together — whether they want to or not — after they tabled a controversial redistricting ordinance Thursday.
The council members may have to meet at 5 p.m. on Monday for a special meeting if there are state sanctions requiring them to pass new district boundaries by the end of the year. Mayor Allan Kauffman said he would take time today to confirm whether or not sanctions exist. If no sanctions exist, the council will tackle the issue at the group’s first meeting of 2013, set for Wednesday.
Two plans were presented to the council Thursday, one created by the city government legal department and an alternative created by City Council president Tom Stump. Stump said earlier he drew his plan to benefit Republicans in certain districts. However, he ultimately withdrew his plan for consideration Thursday.
Before the meeting, Kauffman distributed a handout from state officials that included “partisan politics” — or redrawing district lines to suit political parties — as a motivation for legal action.
“Be prepared for legal action if you pass this,” Kauffman told council members Thursday of Stump’s alternative plan. “I’m concerned the alternative option leaves us wider open for (legal) action than the original plan.”
Stump’s proposal had a population difference of 16.9 percent between the smallest and largest districts, while the original plan had a difference of 16.4 percent. According to city attorney Larry Barkes, precedent has been set by lawsuits that states 10 percent difference as a goal. The city’s current population difference between districts is more than 20 percent, according to Kauffman.
“You can split a precinct for the purpose of balancing populations,” Barkes said. He went on to say that precincts shouldn’t be split for other reasons, including political gerrymandering.
Stump eventually withdrew his plan from consideration.
If state statutes regarding redistricting require action through sanctions against the council, a decision will have to be made by Monday, according to Kauffman. Several council members expressed concern about the work required to come up with a viable alternative to what was presented by the city legal department in just a few days’ time.
“I’m not sure why we’re concerned with the Republican and Democrat right now,” Council member Jeremy Stutsman said at the meeting. “Just from talking to people, it seems like they are more concerned with the actual person than party. If you’re the best person for the job, you’ll be elected.”