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Government and Politics

Cleveland City Council overwhelmingly approves new ward boundaries
The vote came just 24 hours after a new map was unveiled following a controversial redrawing process

Kevin Niedermier
Councilman Brian Cummings (L) talks with redistricting consultant Bob Dykes about some of the new map's population numbers.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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By a wide margin, Cleveland City Council has approved a new ward map that cuts the number of wards from 19 to 17. Today’s vote followed a redistricting process that drew criticism from some council members and residents. Before the vote, council held a public hearing to review the new wards.

As WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, the three-hour meeting featured some anger and some resignation.

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The finalized map was presented to City Council members Monday by Council President Martin Sweeney, who led the redrawing process.

The two 'no' votes came from councilmen Mike Polensek and Joe Cimperman. The new map splits Polensek’s Collinwood neighborhood ward in half, giving part of it to Glenville Councilman Eugene Miller. Polensek contends Sweeney drew that line as a political favor to Miller, a charge Sweeney denies. 

Cimperman’s growing downtown ward is divided into three wards. He still has most of the business district, but loses PlayhouseSquare. Part of Cimperman’s ward will go to Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland. During the hearing, a downtown resident and business owner expressed concern that a council member from the city’s impoverished east side might not understand the more trendy downtown issues.

Some public concerns were taken hard by some council members
The remarks angered Councilman T.J. Dow, and Councilwoman Cleveland.

“I respect your comments and concerns; I understand your concerns and fears. But like Councilman Dow, I’m offended. You’re making assumptions about me and you’ve never had a conversation with me, you don’t know me, my work or where I came from, and obviously you don’t know what I do or have been doing.”

Councilwoman Cleveland is an attorney and former city prosecutor. She also sits on the city’s planning committee.

The city’s Hispanic community is also expressing concern over the redistricting. Attorney and community representative Jose Feliciano says the city has no Hispanics on council even though they make up 10 percent of the population. And he says a new west-side ward boundary cuts the city’s only Hispanic voting block in two, a possible violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Another concern was expressed by Glenville Councilman Kevin Conwell, whose ward in now combined with Councilman Jeff Johnson’s. Conwell says redrawing the wards will dilute funds for fighting crime in Glenville.

“After looking at these borderlines, I went home and prayed to God. We’re going to have to break these lines because we have a lack of resources and we’re going to receive fewer dollars.”

Despite misgivings, many council members voted 'yes'
In the end, Conwell supported the redistricting and vowed to work across neighboring ward boundaries to help all of Glenville.

He and Jeff Johnson are the only incumbents who will  have to run against each other in the fall. Overall, and estimated 30 percent of the city’s population will now have new council members. The redistricting process was required because of population loss. Council President Sweeney was criticized by many people because they says he did not allow as much council and public input into the process as in the past.                                                                                                       

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