A BIG REDISTRICTING PROPOSAL: From Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has shared with members of the city board of directors two proposals for redrawing the city’s seven wards as required by redistricting.

One draft plan leaves ward boundaries largely intact and was designed to make the least amount of changes while accounting for new population. See a large PDF of the proposal and an Excel spreadsheet (fixed) with demographic info.

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The other, which the mayor recommends, dramatically reshapes wards downtown, midtown and in the central part of the city. See a large PDF of the proposal (fixed) and the accompanying Excel spreadsheet.

“Wards are compact and contiguous,” Scott said in his email, describing the reshaped map, “all neighborhoods and communities of interest are kept intact, I-630 is eliminated as a boundary and no longer divides our Wards, each ward closely resembles the makeup of the city, and each ward is closer to our target number of 28,950.”

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The new map describes wards based on geography. Ward 3, represented by Kathy Webb, is labeled Midtown on the map. It now includes large chunks of Capitol View/Stifft Station, Hillcrest and the Heights and is overwhelmingly white. In the map with limited changes, the white population would be 76%. In the mayor’s proposed map, Ward 3 would lose most or all of the neighborhoods above and pick up areas south along University Avenue. It would shift to 48% white and 41% black.

Ward 1, newly represented by Virgil Miller and described as Downtown/East, would absorb all of Hillcrest west to Van Buren and all of Capitol View/Stifft Station.

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Capi Peck’s Ward 4, described as North Central, would pick up the Heights and Riverdale from what’s now Ward 3 and give up some chunks of Midtown to Ward 3 and Ward 6.

West Central, or Ward 6, represented by Doris Wright, would include more neighborhoods north of I-630.

Ward 2 (represented by Ken Richardson and described as Southwest), Ward 5 (represented by Vice-Mayor Lance Hines and described as West) and Ward 7 (represented by BJ Wyrick and described as South) would see only small changes under the mayor’s plan. I suspect calling Richardson’s ward Southwest when it’s located to the east of Wyrick’s was a mistake.

The racial splits in Wards 1, 3 and 6 would be significantly reduced under the mayor’s proposal.

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As Max Brantley has reported, some directors have been grumbling that the mayor and his staff, bypassing past procedure, have been at work designing a ward plan to meet their political objectives.

LITTLE CHANGE: A potential redistricting map.

Will some see politics at work in the mayor’s recommended map? All signs point to yes!

Here’s the mayor’s note to the directors:

Members of the City Board of Directors:

As the redistricting process has unfolded at the State legislature and potentially our judicial system, I think it is imperative that we pay close attention and learn from some of the challenges they are facing.  It is evident that the decision to split Little Rock and Pulaski County into multiple Congressional districts is both irrational and intended to suppress the voices of many of our residents.  If we follow the stated principles to guide our redistricting process, then we can have a fair, equitable, transparent, and participatory process that we can all be proud of.

Once again these are the principles that should guide this redistricting process:

  1. First and foremost, we must be guided by the legal requirements for redistricting (“one person, one vote,” compact and contiguous wards, respect for communities of interest, and the relevant provisions of the Voting Rights Act).
  2. We must also provide opportunities for genuine public input on the process.  Relatedly, we should carry out a process that is transparent so that all of our community feels that this important work has been done fairly.
  3. We must eliminate I-630 as a dividing line in our community with an eye to crossing that barrier for wards through the heart of the City.
  4. To the greatest degree possible, we should avoid wards that are overwhelmingly single-race in their composition to enhance unity in our representation process.

To help start our conversations and to foster dialogue, I have included two draft maps, produced by the City Planning Department, along with a spreadsheet of the potential population demographic breakdown.

The map labeled – Redrawn Wards uses the method used in the past to draw wards, which keeps every director in their current Ward and has the least amount of change to the current make up of each Ward. The demographics of these wards can be seen in the excel file titled Population Redrawn Wards.

The map labeled – New Wards uses our recommended principles of redistricting to draw up the seven wards. Wards are compact and contiguous, all neighborhoods and communities of interest are kept intact, I-630 is eliminated as a boundary and no longer divides our Wards, each ward closely resembles the makeup of the city, and each ward is closer to our target number of 28,950. The demographics for this draft map is in the spreadsheet labeled Population New Wards.

Again, these are not the final maps. This is simply a path to start our conversation about redistricting and look at how we have completed the process in the past compared to how we can improve the process. Please review the attached draft maps and spreadsheets, and share your thoughts.

Mr. Moore and I are looking forward to visiting with each of you to seek your input, and hear your views on our redistricting process.  Simultaneously, we are also looking forward to hearing from our residents by providing opportunities for public input on the process. I think we all can agree hearing our resident’s voices, particular at this time, is paramount and vital, and we would love to hear from each of you on how we can involve the public in this process.