Hardly any Eurekans know which electoral ward we live in. And why should we? Until now, registered voters in the city have been allowed (nay, encouraged) to vote in every Eureka City Council election. This despite the fact that, technically, the city is divided into five sections, or “wards,” with each ward represented by one of the five council members.
But in November, voters passed Measure P, changing the city’s electoral process to a “true ward” system. That means Eureka voters will now only vote for a representative from the ward where they actually live.
Before that happens, though, the boundaries need to be redrawn. As with most electoral districts, each ward is supposed to have roughly the same amount of people in it. But Eureka’s wards are all out of whack. The map hasn’t been updated since the 1970s, and the populations are now dramatically imbalanced.
As things currently stand, according to the latest U.S. Census block data, Councilmember Marian Brady’s Ward 1 has 7,857 people in it. That’s more than twice as many as live in Councilmember Austin Allison’s Ward 4 (3,882).
At the June 6 the June 6 City Council meeting staff presented a seven different possible ways to redraw the maps. They could be smushed horizontally and stacked like pancakes:
Or they could be stretched vertically and shelved like books:
Or, hey! What if we gave every inch of coastline to the First Ward? What might that look like?
But making the populations roughly equivalent isn’t the only criterion. Eureka Community Development Director Rob Holmlund said it’s important to keep neighborhood commercial districts more or less intact — no splitting Henderson Center down the middle, for example. And city staff also wants each ward to have a mix of zoning types, so one zone’s not entirely made up of single-family residences with another comprised of all commercially zoned property.
Here are a few other options drawn up by staff:
It’s a bit of a puzzle, and the city wants its constituents to help solve it. If you are a registered Eureka voter with an interest in such matters, you can send a letter of interest to the city clerk, and you may be selected as a member of an ad hoc committee tasked with reviewing proposed ward boundaries.
Letters of interest are due by the end of the month. Here’s a press release from the City of Eureka:
The Eureka City Council will be establishing an ad hoc committee comprised of seven members to review proposed ward boundaries for the 5 wards within the City of Eureka. Each Councilmember will be selecting a member to represent their ward and the Mayor will select two at-large members. To be considered for the ad hoc committee, individuals must be registered voters who live in the City of Eureka.
Letters of interest are due to the City Clerk by June 30, 2017. The Mayor and Council will appoint the members to the ad hoc committee at their July 20, 2017 meeting. The committee will begin meeting in August to review proposed changes and make a recommendation to Council.
Please mail or e-mail your letter of interest to: Pam Powell, City Clerk City of Eureka 531 K Street Eureka, CA 95501 firstname.lastname@example.org