By JOSEPH DITS
South Bend Tribune
9:40 PM EST, December 3, 2012
In a noncontentious 9-0 vote, the Mishawaka Common Council decided Monday to redraw the boundaries of the six districts where members serve and are elected.
No one from the public stepped forward to argue for or against the proposed map before the vote.
Republican Mayor Dave Wood affirmed Monday that he doesn't plan to veto it. He commended the council for its "cooperation," which he said reflects the Democrats' close, 5-4 majority on the council.
The new map won't go into effect until 2016 as newly elected council members take their seats. So, voters will have to start paying attention to the new districts in the 2015 elections.
Council member Mike Compton, D-5th, who led the effort, said he feels the council met its goal of "squaring off" the shape of the districts so that they'd make sense to someone from outside of the community. For now, those districts are squiggly and difficult to describe.
"We tried to leave the politics out of it," he said.
"It rights a wrong that was done 10 years ago," said council President John Roggeman, D-at large, speaking of the 2002 redistricting in which the Republican majority at that time stuck three Democrat members into the same district. "We didn't want to do that. We took the high road."
Roggeman is among three council members who aren't assigned to a district because they are "at large."
The first version that council Democrats proposed would have placed Republicans Mike Bellovich, R-2nd, and Marsha McClure, R-4th, in the same district. And it would have cut through the Blair Hills subdivision, where Bellovich lives.
Republicans on the council refused that part, and Democrats agreed to it. Both sides went back and forth with different changes this fall. Members decided not to bring it out for a council vote until after the Nov. 6 elections, Compton said.
The 4th and 5th districts will change the most. The new 4th will keep just one of its six current precincts, and the district will shift to the west side of the map, generally swapping sides with the 5th.
"It's hard, after working in a district so much, to see it change so much; but I understand," said McClure, who serves the 4th but will leave her seat at the end of December to begin her new role as a St. Joseph County commissioner.
"I can't see where there's any political gain for one party or another," she added about the new map.
It leaves a geographical challenge for the local Republican party as it elects someone to fill out the rest of McClure's term in a caucus later this month. The party will have to elect someone from the current 4th District. But, if it wants that person to run for re-election in the new 4th in 2015, it has just one precinct from which to find a candidate.
John Reisdorf, R-3rd, said there will still be some cases where his and other district boundaries split neighborhoods, but much fewer. Some of that, he noted, can't be avoided because the districts have to also follow the boundaries of the precincts that comprise each district.
Staff writer Joseph Dits:
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