Oklahoman, The (Oklahoma City, OK) - Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Author: MICHAEL KIMBALL, Staff Writer
A plan that would expand the Oklahoma City Council by two wards to 10 didn't appear to have the necessary support to pass Tuesday when it was presented at a special meeting. 

But judging by the discussion it spawned, the topic of how best to represent the city's changing demographics on its legislative body could just be beginning. 

Ward 4 Councilman Pete White, the main proponent of the 10-ward plan, advocated adding two council members when he presented a new map Tuesday at the special meeting to address Census-required redistricting of the city's wards. 

White pointed out the city had eight wards when it was founded in 1889 with about 10,000 people, while the same number of wards governed 579,999 people as of the 2010 U.S. Census. 

The longtime south Oklahoma City resident also wants the historic Capitol Hill community to have its own councilmember. 

But he conceded his idea probably won't gain enough traction to derail the proposed new eight-ward map, which features a large section of northwest Oklahoma City switching to Ward 1 from Ward 8 to compensate for a population surge. 

Redistricting to keep wards to about the same population size is required after each Census. 

Maybe next year 

"But there's nothing that prevents us from ... redrawing the lines a year from now, two years from now," White said. "It's an idea whose time has come." 

Only Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid expressed broad and immediate support for adopting a 10-ward map during this Census redistricting cycle. But Ward 7 Councilman Skip Kelly and Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan each voiced support for using redistricting as a way to take a hard look at other demographic problems that affect the city. 

Kelly mentioned the city's growing Hispanic population and said he hopes they don't face the same troubles that plagued the city's black residents in previous decades as they fought for representation. 

"We're going to see that same challenge (with Hispanics) sometime in the near future," Kelly said. "We need to start looking at these issues." 

And Ryan said the swelling population in some wards reveals city residents' dissatisfaction with schools. 

People have flocked to better-performing schools in northwest Oklahoma City and avoided others, highlighting the need for the city to reform its education system, he said. 

"That's just a fact of life, and it has nothing to do with the number of wards we have," Ryan said.