Drawn and Quartered

Welcome to redistricting 101. Now shut up.

If the appointment process was overtly political, the redistricting negotiations were only slightly less so. Though a plethora of conditions had to be finessed--including provisions that each ward had to contain between 27,930 and 30,870 people and no ward could be more than twice as large in a north-south direction as it was east-west--to varying degrees, everyone had a partisan agenda. "I was interested in increasing the chances of getting a Republican elected in the 12th, 13th, 11th, and 7th wards," says Republican commission member Lyall Schwarzkopf. "I was not able to accomplish that in the 12th Ward. I was able to make the 11th Ward a little better for us, and with help from the Independence Party I was able to make the 13th and the 7th a little better."

The committee's Independence Party members had reason to want to shore up the 7th and 13th wards, with independent city council candidates having been elected four straight times in the 13th and a strong moderate council member (Lisa Goodman) holding down the 7th. "You have a lot of expectations going in, but it is a collaborative effort and compromises had to be made," says Independence Party member Karen Collier. "I'm sure everyone on the commission had someone they represented get upset. That means it was successful."

It also left the city council's Green Party members and left-leaning DFLers on the outside looking in.

Shapeshifters: The City of Minneapolis before and after
Courtesy of City of Minneapolis Web site
Shapeshifters: The City of Minneapolis before and after


By far the greatest public outcry centers on the Fifth Ward, which lost prosperous downtown neighborhoods and acquired more economically disadvantaged northern neighborhoods. "We already had an area where there is not a lot of economic investment, and they added another area where there is not a lot of economic investment. And they cut off downtown," complains Johnson Lee. "They are concentrating poverty and adding to the stigma many people feel about the north side."

In a city that is less than 40 percent nonwhite, the commission created a Fifth Ward that is 82 percent nonwhite. "If I have anything to do about it, there will be a lawsuit," vows Matthea Little Smith, founder of the Minnesota Black Political Action Committee and a member of the NAACP, whose Minneapolis chapter was once headed by her father. "We are looking at all options. That map is unacceptable, and if we have to live with it, I have to know I have done everything in my power to change it."

Johnson Lee concurs: "Right now a legal challenge is probably the way to do this.

"People were looking out more for the interests of their party than for the interests of the city, and I think that's sad," Johnson Lee adds. "This was definitely an old-line DFL plan. I don't want to use the word conspiracy, because it makes people turn their head. But it was a thought-out plan of retribution. The DFL is living up to their reputation for posing as a party that embraces and practices democracy but really practices elitism and cronyism and choosing who they want to come through. That's why people are real confused about what the DFL is today."

Commission members believe the law is on their side. "To say we packed that ward is bogus," says Karen Collier, a commission member who represents the Independence Party. "Everything we did, we ran up with the [city] attorneys time and time again. We can't help it that the Census showed we had a huge minority population in that area. That's the fact, folks."

Collier does allow that the system had its shortcomings. "I think the process was fair and I can say everyone worked really hard for two very intense months," she explains. "But I guess if you'd had the council do it again, then all the gripes would have to be directed against the council members. There's something to be said for that."

Adds Republican commission member Lyall Schwarzkopf: "I think this was as political as if the city council did it themselves." A former state legislator, city clerk, and governor's chief of staff, Schwarzkopf has participated in other redistricting plans at both the state and city level. "Back in 1971, I helped the city council when they did their own reapportionment, and I liked that better," he says. "The city council members know what kinds of wards they want and can compromise and work it out."

« Previous Page