Meaaz

Following the city’s charter, a map changing Mesa’s six districts to reflect population shifts has been proposed.

If you live in southeast Mesa, parts of northwest and even central Mesa, get ready for the easiest move of your life.

You won’t have to lift a finger.

A commission has done all the “heavy lifting,” which involved processing data from the U.S. Census, figuring out how to redistribute people in Mesa’s six voting districts, presenting drafts of a new map at public meetings and finally selling a finished product to City Council.

On Monday, City Council will consider “Approving the recommendations of the city of Mesa Redistricting Commission concerning the establishment of council district boundaries in accordance with the 2020 U.S. Decennial Census.”

There’s a catch: While City Council controls how much residents pay in taxes and for utilities and how millions of dollars are spent, the council members really have no say in this matter. 

As the City Charter spells out, whether or not they approve of the new map, the Redistricting Commission has the final say.

Each of the six districts votes for a City Council representative.

Following the latest census, towns and cities around the country similarly are drawing new maps.

Even so, Mesa is unique, as Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo, chair of the commission, told City Council at a recent study session.

Calling the process “a numbers game,” she added:

“This becomes a little complicated for Mesa because of one of the provisions in the City Charter – our consultants have said we are probably the only jurisdiction in the country that has this: City Council members cannot be removed from their district...This creates some complications.

“The home of a sitting council member acts like an anchor and you have to redraw the boundaries around that.”

A chuckling Julie Spilsbury, who represents District 2, said she appreciates that. 

“I don’t want to have to run against Jenn,” she said, referring to Vice Mayor Jenn Duff, who represents neighboring District 4.

People in both those central districts will “move” to other districts, though nothing compared to booming District 6, which will have a mass exodus with people being shifted to Districts 2 and 5.  

Though the idea was to divide Mesa’s 504,000 or so residents into six fairly equal districts, the commission’s presentation showed “deviations.”

Villanueva-Saucedo said that was purposeful. 

“District 6 is slightly under-populated to help account for the planned growth over the decade in this area of the city,” she said.

A perfect split of the city’s 504,462 counted people would have 84,077 residents in each of Mesa’s six districts.

“The challenge was removing 20,000 people out of (District) 6 and redistricting that,” Villanueva-Saucedo said. “Given where some of the homes of city council members were, it was a balancing act.”

The commission’s proposal has 81,907 residents in District 6. At the far west of the city, District 1 is even smaller, with a proposed 81,667 residents. 

District 2 would have 82,745 residents, District 3 would be home to 84,024, District 4 would have 85,670.

With a proposed 88,461 residents, District 5 would be by far the largest district in the city.

“That was our slowest-growing district,” Villanueva-Saucedo said.

District 5 in the city’s northwest would also have the lowest Latino population, with 15 percent. Neighboring District 4 has a 53 percent Latino population.

And District 5 would have the lowest Black population, at 2.2 percent; District 3 would have the largest Black population, at 6.6 percent.

Mayor John Giles was a councilman when the redistricting first was discussed two decades ago.

“Back then all of the city council members came from the same neighborhood,” Giles said.

“The intent was not to create little fiefdoms around the city. We’re not anointing someone to be the czar of the neighborhood.”

Giles encouraged residents to continue making suggestions to council members or the commission.

“This is not baked, there are multiple processes ahead,” Giles said. “This is not a done deal. We are still soliciting public comments.”

Questions or comments on the process can

be emailed to redistricting@mesaaz.gov.

In addition to Villanueva-Saucedo, the other members of the committee are Elaine Miner, Jo Martin, Greg Marek and Dr. Christine Jiang.

They received consulting services from Redistricting Partners, which in its proposal said it has “experience with large-scale, complex redistricting projects” and promised a “citizen-driven approach to redistricting.”

By city charter, Mesa must complete redistricting by the candidate filing deadline of March 7, 2022. 

(1) comment

snipes

Article says:

"District 5 in the city’s northwest would also have the lowest Latino population, with 15 percent. Neighboring District 4 has a 53 percent Latino population."

But District 5 is in the NorthEAST. Also, District 5 does is NOT a "neighbor" to District 4. Could the author clarify this paragraph.

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