Jan 24, 2024 - News

Residents fear council redistricting could tear apart neighborhoods

 Grixdale Farms residents Tim and Ginger Quinn sit beside Asher Van Sickle, all of whom spoke yesterday at City Council urging members to stay in District 2, which is represented by Angela Whitfield Calloway. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Grixdale Farms residents Tim and Ginger Quinn sit beside Asher Van Sickle — all of whom spoke yesterday at City Council urging members to stay in District 2, which is represented by Angela Whitfield Calloway. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Detroit's shrinking population means the city must redraw its City Council districts by next month — and residents are anxious about how changes could affect their services and neighborhood fabric.

Why it matters: The new districts will determine boundaries for City Council elections and could break up community groups, neighborhood block clubs and alter services provided to residents.

  • Also watching closely are appointees to City Council and members of the Board of Zoning Appeals and the planning commission, who are required to live in the districts they represent.

Driving the news: Several residents of Grixdale Farms near Palmer Park urged council Tuesday to approve the second map option that would keep their neighborhood in District 2, instead of joining District 3 as drawn in other proposals.

What they're saying: "Our community in Grixdale Farms has a ton of energy — we've gotten organized as a neighborhood — all of our meetings happen at Palmer Park and the police precinct district," resident Ginger Quinn tells Axios. "The east side's needs are not the same as ours. If we have to use their police precinct, they're four miles away."

  • Those representing Grixdale Farms pushed back on the third option presented by the planning commission. It proposes the most radical change to the current configuration given that Districts 3 and 4 have suffered the greatest population loss.

Zoom in: Maps being supported by Grixdale Farms residents are options 2 and 6; the proposed boundaries are most similar to the current configuration.

  • Amy McLaughlin, vice president of the Woodbridge Citizens Council, voiced concerns over losing their relationship with District 6 representative Gabriela Santiago-Romero.
  • "Our ongoing relationships have been so important to the health and engagement of our neighborhood residents," McLaughlin, who offered support to options 2 or 3, told council.

Catch up quick: The boundaries of the seven City Council districts need to be redrawn based on the 2020 census population data, which saw a 10.5% drop from 2010 — meaning the new districts will have about 91,000 residents each instead of 100,000.

  • The planning commission sought feedback on six proposed map options that would populate each district as equally, compact and contiguous as possible. That's a requirement of the maps along with keeping ethnic groups intact, explained Marcell Todd, director of the Detroit City Planning Commission and deputy director of the city's Legislative Policy Division.

Between the lines: Many public commenters pointed to Mayor Mike Duggan's previous challenges of the U.S. Census Bureau, which the planning commission is using to craft the new maps.

  • Duggan said this month he's "optimistic" the bureau is going to officially declare population is growing in Detroit, despite the fact that his appeals have been unsuccessful thus far.
  • "It is our understanding that no challenge of census numbers in a major city in the sort that we have mounted has ever been successful," Todd said, adding the planning commission would start the process over again should the Census Bureau adjust its counts.

What's next: Council moved the date of final approval from Jan. 30 to Feb. 6.

  • The law department urged council to approve the districts, which will take effect in 2026, as soon as possible.
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