Feb 3, 2023 - Politics

Phoenix considers adding council districts next year

Illustration of the city of Phoenix with shifting green and purple districts inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Phoenix City Council might need a bigger dais soon.

What's happening: The council voted Wednesday to start the formal council redistricting process. During their discussion, four council members — Deb Stark, Jim Waring, Carlos Garcia and Sal DiCiccio — asked staff to look at adding more districts.

By the numbers: The Phoenix City Council has had eight districts since voters approved the system in 1983.

  • The population then was about 800,000. Today, it's 1.6 million.

Why it matters: Each council member represents more than 200,000 people and most districts span distinctively different neighborhoods, making it difficult for elected officials to understand the needs of all their constituents.

  • "It's really hard to represent people with their values and their interests when it's that large," Council Member DiCiccio said at a meeting Wednesday. "It doesn't allow for the diversity of opinion as much."

Of note: We have one of the largest constituent-to-council-member ratios in the U.S. based on population.

  • Similarly sized Philadelphia and Houston each have 16 council members.

State of play: Phoenix must adopt new council districts using 2020 U.S. Census population numbers by next January.

Adding districts will require voter approval, and the city clerk told us the council would need to refer a ballot measure to voters in the coming months to meet this year's redistricting schedule.

What's next: The city is expected to hire a redistricting consultant by April, per a staff report. The council will decide whether to ask voters to add more districts by that time.

Of note: Phoenix isn't the only governmental body in Arizona with huge districts.

  • Our legislative districts are also among the most populous in the country. Multiple attempts to add more representatives have failed.

💭 Jessica's thought bubble: If the city adds more council members, it'll likely have to remodel the current chambers to fit everyone.

  • Maybe they could include some modern amenities like a press area and more outlets while they're at it?
  • Asking for a friend who's had to stand through many hours-long meetings. (😉).

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