Drawing district lines for a changed Detroit City Council

Jan 23, 2012

Detroit officials are fast-tracking a process to change the way Council members represent the city.

Detroit voters approved a plan in November to elect seven of nine City Council members by district, when they approved a new city charter. Currently, all nine members represent the city at-large.

The idea is to give the city's distinct communities more of a voice in governing. But some are worried these proposals won’t really do that.

Vince Keenan, who heads the voter information website publius.org, helped spearhead the council-by-district campaign.

Among other things, Keenan worries that downtown Detroit could get more than its share of representation. That's because all four plans split the downtown area among several districts.

That means at least three council members would represent the downtown area, along with part of another neighborhood. “You’re going to skew the neighborhood agenda towards what’s happening in the corner of it that’s downtown,” Keenan said.

The City Council is scheduled to choose one of four redistricting proposals by February 17th. Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins says between now and then, the process needs to be transparent.

"It'll shake up the whole city, and city government, because it's a totally new way of having elections, and doing business," Jenkins said.

Several current Council members all live in what will likely become a single district.

If they seek re-election, those members will either need to face off directly against a current colleague or move to another district by May.