Minor changes to districts would affect 1,600 people

Tulsa World (OK) - Thursday, February 23, 2012
Author: JARREL WADE World Staff Writer

City councilors will look at a proposed ordinance Thursday that would make minor changes to Tulsa's districts after a redistricting in 2011 that became controversial. 

The changes would affect less than half of 1 percent of Tulsa's population but would immediately switch about 1,600 people to new districts to conform with federal census precinct lines, officials said. 

Of the eight changes, only four affect populated areas, and homes in those areas would receive notification of the district changes, city officials told councilors last week in committee. 

If councilors approve the ordinance Thursday in committee, it could be voted on as soon as next week, officials said. 

Councilor G.T. Bynum asked legal officials during a committee discussion to clarify how the population of transferred residents should be represented by their council. 

"I know when we went through this last year, there was a great deal of confusion," he said. 

Residents would be transferred to the new district as soon as the ordinance is passed. 

"I feel that we need to make sure we do everything correct this time," Bynum said. 

Last May, officials proposed a new district map based on population shifts from 2010 Census data. 

At the time, a majority of councilors claimed that the new district boundaries were the result of gerrymandering and that Mayor Dewey Bartlett's political consultant had a hand in it to try to remove them from office. 

Several councilors argued that the new maps would harm their upcoming re-election campaigns. 

Councilors refused to approve a resolution calling for an election using the new districts until a judge ordered them to do so. 

Councilor Jack Henderson reminded councilors that despite the small changes, each of the councilors needs to make sure that they immediately represent their new additions. 

"The councilors who have those new people do need to know that they now represent those people and not just leave them out until the next election," he said. "They need to go ahead and take care of those people." 

The district changes are done after every federal census, and minor changes are made "to strictly conform with precinct boundaries based on legislative boundaries," said Rich Brierre, executive director of the Indian Nations Council of Governments. 

Tulsa County Election Board officials asked INCOG officials to propose the ordinance to city councilors to finish the redistricting changes approved last year, Brierre said. 

The largest move will be a portion of the neighborhoods northwest of Garnett Road and 21st Street, which would transfer from District 5 to District 6. 

Almost 800 people would be affected, according to INCOG information based on census data. 

The total of about 1,600 people being transferred in the four adjustments include all people living in that area - not just the number of registered voters, Brierre said.