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Government and Politics

New Cleveland ward map is unveiled, council could vote on it tomorrow
Controversial redistricting process draws the ire of some council members and residents

Kevin Niedermier
New Cleveland council wards drawn up by Council President Martin Sweeney and a consultant. The controversial map could come to a vote tomorrow.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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In The Region:

Cleveland City Council could soon decide on a new ward map released just this morning. A special council meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow morning to review the new boundaries before calling for a vote.

Council President Martin Sweeney led the ward redrawing process, which sparked some controversy because it was conducted mostly behind closed doors.

WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports on the proposed map and what some council members have to say about it.

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Cleveland needs to reduce its council wards from 19 to 17 because the city has lost population.

It's a process council goes through every 10 years based on U.S. Census numbers. This time, council President Sweeney hired a consultant to help draft the new ward map. The two worked closely together with less direct input than in the past from council members and residents.

But Sweeney says charges that the process was too secretive are not true. He says each council member told the consultants what their perfect ward would look like, and council members discussed the issues among themselves and with their constituents. And, an umbrella group representing the neighborhood development organizations was involved as well as others.

“We had regular meeting with the institutions and business community. People say we had a 'pressure cooker' going on. I say, with a pressure cooker, if it’s properly watched and managed, something wonderful comes out. And I think that’s what this redistricting process produced.”

Some council members are unhappy about the process or changes
Sweeney says all the wards are changed, including his. He says concern that the mostly black Glenville neighborhood would be chopped into several new wards is unfounded. Sweeney says it would remain 90 percent intact. But, as predicted, because of population shifts, the proposed map divides downtown Councilman Joe Cimperman’s ward into three.

“Obviously, downtown being split into three concerns me," Cimperman says. "Dividing communities from Collinwood to Glenville makes me wonder what the real purposes are. I’ve been asking for a copy of the map for almost three weeks, and today, the day before we vote, we actually got one. I don’t think that’s good government, and I hope we can get some questions answered.”

Cimperman says a bigger concern is that residents were not involved in the redrawing. He and others believe dividing neighborhoods will make it harder for council members to serve specific neighborhood needs.

Councilman charges that his ward was divided for a political favor
Speculation that Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood would be divided turns out to be true. The new map splits the ward in two, giving the southern half to Councilman Eugene Miller, whose current ward has lost the most population. For years, that neighborhood has been represented by Councilman Mike Polensek, who’s not happy about the change. He charges Sweeney with redrawing the boundaries to help Councilman Miller politically.

So, you tore up the Collinwood and Glenville neighborhood just to protect one councilman politically. This isn’t good for our citizens and it’s not good for the process because people have been denied access to the process of changing the ward lines.”

Polensek says he will not vote for the map as it’s drawn. Meanwhile, Sweeney denies Polensek’s allegation that his ward was redrawn to benefit Councilman Miller.

“He was doing what he always does, trying to stir things up. He just wanted to keep what he had. All wards changed, some more than others. And when we vote on this, it will be the true reflection of what council actually believes.”

Sweeney expects council to approve redrawn map
Sweeney needs 12 votes to suspend council rules and pass the new ward map on a first or second reading. If he gets 10 votes, the proposal must go through three readings. Sweeney believes he has the 12 votes he needs. If council doesn’t agree on the changes by next Monday, Mayor Frank Jackson will decide on the new boundaries.                                                                             

Listener Comments:

I do not like the proposed changes. I read my newletters and this is the first I have heard of this...was this announced somewhere and do the citizens of each ward have a say in this at all????

Posted by: Jodie Nicole Rainey (11th Ward) on March 26, 2013 7:03AM
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