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Council debates ward proposals

Bowling Green City Council convened last night for a public hearing concerning the new ward system that was proposed March 4.

Under the current ward system, there are unequal numbers of residents in the city’s four wards.

According to the system proposed by 4th Ward councilman Stan Bortel last month, each ward would be nearly the same in population.

One of the main differences between the current ward system and Bortel’s proposal is that University students living in Harshman and Kreischer quadrangles and Conklin would be moved to the 3rd, while the rest of the University remained in the 1st.

Sarah Tomashefski, 1st Ward councilwoman and University graduate student, said she is concerned this would hurt student representation on council and feels Bortel?s proposal is as such because students may not be as apt to fight it as would residents if students did get an automatic voice on council.

“It’s completely unfair,” she said. “It’s destroying their (students) neighborhood, because it’s the easiest group to do it to. You move a group that doesn’t necessarily stand up and say something.”

However, according to Bortel, his proposal would allow the students to gain control of six of the eight council positions if they all voted.

John Hartman, a city resident, proclaimed his disgust with Bortel’s proposed system, calling it a form of gerrymandering, which means the wards are divided up in odd shapes, rather than squared off.

“If we were trying to kill the ward concept as many people at this table (council members) are trying to do, I’d go with this,” he said.

Although Bortel’s ward plan was the most highly talked-about and seemingly favored by the majority of the council members, 2nd Ward councilman Patrick Ng also had a proposal that gained some attention from those in attendance.

Under Ng’s proposal, the wards would be drawn in lines from east to west across the city to include an equal mix of permanent residents and students, rather than the city being sectioned off in squares containing similar interest groups.

“In that proposal, if you want to be a representative, you have to represent the spectrum of the city,” Ng said.

City resident Dawn MacCahy said Ng’s proposal was the best one because it would allow students and residents to have same chance at representation in every ward, due to the plan’s balanced population.

“I think this is a very creative solution,” she said. “I would be very happy to see this proposal go into effect.”

While the student vote was one of the main topics of discussion at the hearing, B.J. Fischer, at-large representative, said it should not be the deciding factor in how the wards are drawn up.

“The purpose of redistricting is not to guarantee a student to have a seat on council,” he said. “The purpose of redistricting is also not to guarantee that a student does not have a seat on council.”

According to Ng, the only fair way to make the final decision on which ward system will eventually go into effect is to have members of the city vote on it in the November election. He said his proposal, along with Bortel’s and one that Tomashefski will soon come up with, should be decided on by the residents rather than council members.

“I am very much in favor of putting this on the ballot in November,” Tomashefski said.

While the current plan is for council to decide on a ward system in the next month, Ng said he hopes he can change that.

“I’m going to move to put it on the ballot at the next meeting, but it will probably fail,” he said.

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