If you were looking for excitement and continuing fireworks last night's City Council meeting did not disappoint.
There was a capacity crowd, some probably remained after the smoking ban meeting, but that is a different story. The residents and some of the council members had a lot to say and did not hold anything back.
The first speakers were residents who had taken part in the redistricting committee. One resident was offended by an article he read in the Courier Journal in which a council member was concerned that he was being forced out of office because part of his district had been merged with another council member's district. This resulted in two council members living in the same district. Of course they will have to face each other in the next election or flip a coin to see who will run "at large". As it turned out, this happened in another district also. So there will be four council members living in two districts. The 2011 race could be quite interesting.
The general consensus was that the proposed redistricting plan is perfectly fair as far as the population per district but splits precincts and disrupts neighborhoods. In general it leaves people without a sense of community.
This theme was repeated when the west end residents spoke about the Lopp Real Estate company who are trying to develop the west end. Some of the residents were afraid that they would be forced to sell their property at a loss. Several council members assured them that no one can force a homeowner to sell. It is totally up to them to take or reject any offers. It was brought up that some of the residents are being offered an incentive to talk their neighbors into selling their property. This is has the effect of pitting friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor. One resident spoke eloquently about older people who had lived in the same house for decades and were confused about all of the talk. She asked for the same respect as would be given to a homeowner in a more affluent neighborhood.
Another resident said that he was offered $18,000 less than his property appraised for twelve years ago. He too was assured that he is not obligated to accept any offers. One of the council members asked if the rezoning would help or hurt his property value. The gentleman did not know the answer but said that if his property value stayed the same as it was 12 years ago he would be OK with that.
This resolution passed after a little tweaking from a few council members with a vote of 7-1, one member was absent.
The sparks really started flying when it was time for the city officials to speak. As I said earlier a few of the council members were not happy with the proposed redistricting plan. One member said that per state law the council is responsible for drawing the district lines. Another said that the city was obligated to do something quickly because of the law suit which was filed earlier. All three of the council members who were members of the committee agreed that there was no regard to politics and that the decisions were solely based on population numbers from the 2002 Census.
Between the council members trying to out talk each other and comments from the crowd it was hard to keep up with what was happening. But the final vote was 4-4 on the first reading. Certainly more to come at the next two readings.
I am sorry to admit that I left at 9:30 so I did not hear the votes on the other Ordinances which included additional funds to hire more police officers. This is a very important issue but I just could not stay any later.
My feeling about the redistricting is this: yes the numbers are as fair as possible but there are other things to consider. People do consider themselves part of a neighborhood. If they have a problem they want to be able to rely on their council representive. It makes it difficult when the precints are split and some residents don't feel that they are part of their own neighborhood. It will also be very confusing at election time when people are told to vote elsewhere. Some may even be given the wrong information and refuse to vote out of general disgust.
I also think that the council members should have been considered in this plan. If the people of a certain district vote for a council rep they want that person to represent them. Council reps should not be pitted against each other as they try to work together. Objectivity is fine but some things are subjective and should be considered.