Washtenaw County apportionment commission meeting (May 11, 2011): Under a redistricting plan adopted on Wednesday, the number of Washtenaw County commissioners will drop from 11 to nine starting in 2013 – reverting back to the number of districts the county had in the 1980s. Ann Arbor will lose a district under the plan, and two current commissioners – Leah Gunn and Yousef Rabhi – will be in the same district, the new District 8.
The redistricting also puts incumbents Alicia Ping, a Republican, and Democrat Wes Prater into the same district – the new District 3, covering south and southwestern Washtenaw County, including the city of Saline. The plan also keeps Scio Township mostly in the same district, District 1. Previously the township had been fragmented into several districts.
The vote came after more than a month of meetings and an hour of discussion and public commentary on Wednesday, including some harsh words from the only Republican on the five-member commission, Mark Boonstra. Boonstra, chair of the Washtenaw County Republican Committee, charged that he’d been pressured to adopt a 12-district plan that he said favored the incumbents and put Republican contenders at a disadvantage. Of the current 11-member county board, only three commissioners are Republican.
The plan that Boonstra says he was pressured to accept was the first one voted down on Wednesday – supported only by county clerk Larry Kestenbaum, who proposed it, and Cleveland Chandler, chair of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. A second vote taken on a 9-district plan drawn by Boonstra was also defeated – Boonstra was the only one who voted in favor of it.
The final vote was for a 9-district plan drafted by county prosecuting attorney Brian Mackie and revised with input from other Democrats on the apportionment commission, including Kestenbaum and county treasurer Catherine McClary. It gained unanimous support from the full commission. [.pdf file of adopted 9-district county map]
Redistricting occurs every 10 years, based on population changes determined by the U.S. census. Until this week, only two plans had been offered: one for 9 districts, another for 12. However, just hours before Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting, several new plans were submitted for consideration. In total, 11 plans were considered by the commission – for 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 21 districts. One resident during public commentary said he’d attended several previous meeting, and that it was shocking to arrive and see so many new plans on the day of the final vote.
All county commissioners are elected to two-year terms. The new districts will be used in next year’s elections, for commissioners who will take office in January 2013.
For additional background about the redistricting process, see Chronicle coverage: “No Decision Yet on County Redistricting,” “County Board Districts Likely to Change,” “Public Gives Input on County Redistricting,” “Washtenaw Redistricting Work Begins” and “County Clerk Outlines Redistricting Process.”