Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jordan Green on 2008's redistricting plan: Bellamy- Small, Wade, Burckley, Knight, Matheny, Vaughan and Rakestraw

"...the process seems to be following a divisive chain of events in 2008...

Then, the council voted 5-4 to reject a plan created by staff and favored by District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy- Small before approving a plan submitted by Matheny that worked to the advantage of District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade.

This time, Wade moved to appoint Matheny as liaison for redistricting.

Bellamy-Small asked if she could work with Matheny on the plan, and was turned down.

The redistricting process of 2008 marked a first, according to city staff: Never before had an outside consultant been involved in crafting redistricting plans.

This year could mark yet another first in the city’s redistricting history: Matheny said he is working out the details for a public input meeting to make the process more open and transparent.

For the past two years, a rumor has circulated through city hall and among elected officials and municipal employees involving political consultant Bill Burckley, who helped Wade win election in 2007, and who helped engineer Bill Knight’s mayoral upset two years later, in addition to assisting on the campaigns of Matheny, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan and District 4 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw.

The rumor had gained such strong currency that at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins joked when redistricting came up for discussion at the council’s Feb. 15 meeting: “I nominate Bill Burckley to fill that role.”

According to rumor, Burckley drew up the 2008 redistricting plan, and handed it off to Wade; Wade passed it on to Matheny; and Matheny claimed ownership of the plan and presented it to council, which approved it by a narrow majority.

...the city staff’s next priority was to develop a plan that minimized the number of precincts transferred. Staff’s favored plan and the one eventually championed by Bellamy- Small was Plan B.

...Steve Sherman, the city’s geographical information services manager...also recalls working with Burckley. “Bill, as I understand it, was under contract by Councilwoman Wade to develop plans,” Sherman said, “although I never saw a check pass hands.”

Neither Burckley nor Wade returned calls for this story.

Sherman said Burckley submitted five plans to him on Jan. 2, and a fifth plan on Jan. 9, 2008.

One of Burckley’s plans was dropped because it did not provide contiguity.

...Matheny joined the process later, prompted by a tip that some of the staff-generated plans redrew District 3 in a way that was not to his liking.

“When I found out that New Irving Park was out of District 3, somebody said, ‘Zack, you ought to pay attention to the redistricting,’” Matheny said. “That’s the heart of my district.”


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