For at least one night, the commission drawing up new lines for the St. Louis County Council had a quiet meeting.
The St. Louis County Council Reapportionment Commission spent most of Monday's meeting in Clayton listening to a presentation on St. Louis County census figures and sketching out details for the next two July public hearings. Only one audience member spoke out about how to rearrange the map before the commission adjourned.
But keeping the process tranquil will be the challenge for the commission, a 14-person body evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. The body is tasked with drawing new boundaries for the St. Louis County Council based upon the 2010 census, and four of St. Louis County’s districts have decreased in population. That means the boundaries for those areas will have to expand.
In a presentation lead by William Schwulst of the St. Louis County Planning Department, members of the commission got a glimpse of how the county’s population changed in the past 10 years.
One part of the presentation featured a color-coded map showcasing population changes in council districts.
That map showed:
- A 1.9 percent population decrease in District 5, which includes Clayton, Richmond Heights, most of Ladue and portions of Crestwood; Richmond Heights resident Pat Dolan represents the district.
- A 3.6 percent population decline in District 4, which encompasses cities such as Florissant, Black Jack and Bellefontaine Neighbors; Florissant resident Michael O'Mara represents the district.
- A 7.7 percent population decline in District 1, which includes Berkeley, Ferguson and Jennings; University City resident Hazel Erby represents the district.
- A 4.3 percent decrease in District 2, which covers Bridgeton, Overland, Maryland Heights and Hazelwood. Overland resident Kathleen Kelly Burkett represents the district.
The other three districts in the county council experienced modest population growth:
- District 7, which includes Wildwood, Eureka and portions of Chesterfield, experienced 3.8-percent growth. Ballwin resident Greg Quinn represents the district.
- District 3, which includes Town and County, most of Kirkwood and most of Creve Coeur, grew by 1.4 percent. Town and Country resident Colleen Wasinger represents the district.
- District 6, which encompasses most of southern St. Louis County, experienced a 0.3 percent population boost. Steve Stenger, a resident of unincorporated St. Louis County, represents the district.
Ruth Ahlemeier, a Ladue resident, told the commission that population changes in District 5 have not been as dramatic as in past decades. She suggested pushing the boundary westward to include all of Ladue and Warson Woods.
“Therefore, my recommendation is that the (District 5) county council boundaries be changed by eliminating the western boundaries that carve out spaces in between the little cities in between the county districts,” Ahlemeier said. Placing all of Ladue and Warson Woods in District 5, she said, "would be more compact and contiguous.”
“Also, if that wasn’t enough population, we could add Frontenac and Huntleigh to the district,” she said.
Sam Page, a former Democratic lawmaker from Creve Coeur, said input from the public and muncipalities will affect the way lines are drawn. But he added that some districts are going to get bigger.
“If you look at the county council districts (that lost population), those are the boundaries that will have to expand,” Page said.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The commission is planning two public meetings throughout the next two weeks.
The first one will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at . The second will take place at 7 p.m. July 25 in the J.C. Penney Conference Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Allen Icet, a former Republican state lawmaker from Wildwood, said the commission has until Thanksgiving to pass a reconfigured map. It must receive nine votes in order to go into effect. If the commission can't reach a consensus by the deadline, courts will end up drawing the new boundaries.
Redistricting can often become a contentious affair. An effort to reconfigure Missouri’s congressional districts proved arduous, and redrawing lines for state legislative boundaries could end up being decided by judges.
Yet Icet and Page said they hope the commission can complete a map by a late November deadline and keep boundary-drawing away from judges.
“If you look at the demographic shift, it’s just a couple of percent,” Icet said. “What’s going on in St. Louis County is you add a percent or you take away two or three percent. It’s not radical line shifts because of significant demographic shifts.”
“Hopefully it won’t be as contentious as (drawing state legislative boundaries),” Icet said.
Added Page: “From my informal discussions about these meetings with other commission members, I’m optimistic that we can achieve a map.”