Wednesday, July 26, 2017 This Week's Paper

Council districts to get new boundaries

The five council districts in Tacoma will soon need to be revised to make sure they have as equal a number of residents as possible. This is done every 10 years and is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The population of the city is 198,397. This has not changed much since the previous census was taken in 2000. But uneven population growth means adjustments must be made to district boundaries to keep them as equal as possible. The new target is 39,679 people in each district.

District 1, which encompasses the West End and part of the North End, needs an additional 2,273 people to reach the target. District 2, which runs from Proctor District to downtown to Northeast Tacoma, needs to lose 1,244 people.

District 3, which runs from Hilltop to the border with University Place, needs to lose 328 people. District 4, which includes the East Side and part of South Tacoma, needs to gain 717 people. And District 5, which has a portion of the East Side and the rest of South Tacoma, needs to lose 1,420

Tacoma City Council members received an update on redistricting during the June 29 meeting of their Government Performance and Finance Committee.

In general, city officials like to use major roads such as Interstate 5 and State Route 16 as district boundaries. Randy Lewis, the city’s government relations officer, said 6th Avenue has traditionally been used as a boundary between Districts 2 and 3.

Councilmember Jake Fey noted that the boundary between Districts 1 and 2 reflect a difference in the ethnic makeup of residents in these two sections of Tacoma.

Councilmember Marty Campbell was surprised by the 1,232 residents in one small section on the Tideflats. He was informed these are people held on immigration charges at Northwest Detention Center. Regardless of their legal status, they are counted as city residents in the census.

“They do not show up on voter registration lists,” Fey observed.

Campbell expressed his desire for districts to make sense based on factors that unite the residents of each.

“Hitting a number is not as important as keeping communities together,” he said. “I want us to make a map that makes sense.”

Campbell said it is problematic when a council member cannot easily articulate the boundaries of his or her district.

“Where possible, that is the goal,” Lewis remarked.

Lewis said several decades ago, the difference in population of districts was often several hundred people. He said the general benchmark now is to keep them within 5 percent of each other.

Proctor District is currently split between two districts, although there is a possibility of it being in one. Lewis said having it in two was a conscious decision made by former council members.

Justin Leighton, a member of Central Neighborhood Council, was the only resident to testify at the meeting. He requested that the various neighborhood councils be contacted for their input on redistricting.