By JAN WILLMS
What a difference a meeting makes!
Prior to the Jan. 9 meeting to gain public input on the proposed boundary changes of Districts 6 and 10, both District Councils opposed the move.
Although Ward 5 Councilmember Amy Brendmoen said she had heard from numerous constituents in the South Como neighborhood of District 6 that they wished to be a part of District 10, it was not considered to be an overwhelming number who sought the change.
But when around 170 people showed up at the Jan. 9 meeting and the majority of them wanted to have the boundaries changed and have more input into what they considered to be issues that dealt with their neighborhood, the District Councils listened.
“The turnout was high for a community meeting, but it did indeed reflect the strong interest I have heard by the neighborhood,” Brendmoen said.
Following the meeting, on Jan. 24 the Planning and Economic Development (PED) Department made a recommendation that the neighborhood of South Como be moved from District 6 to District 10.
District 6 had sent a letter Jan. 11 to District 10, recommending that the entire South Como area be represented by District 10. Based on this letter, the recommendation of PED and the overwhelming sentiments voiced at the Jan. 9 public meeting, District 10 also agreed to accept the proposed change in a resolution passed Jan. 15.
In a letter sent Feb. 5 to Councilmember Brendmoen’s office and the PED, District 10 expressed its willingness to accept the boundary alterations, although its board members requested those changes be made in a careful and prudent manner.
A part of the letter suggests that expanding District 10’s boundaries will require fundamentally changing the organization and its membership.
“These fundamental changes include: determining board size, board composition and committee structure, as well as considering new sub-district borders and representation,” the letter reads.
The letter also states that proposed changes to the bylaws must be heard at three public meetings before a vote on them can be taken.
District 10 board members also expressed concern in the letter that the way this issue was pushed forward has diminished the importance and the independence of the district councils and, thus, has undermined the principle of citizen participation for which they were created.
If the proposed change is approved by the City Council, District 6 will lose 3,500 residents and $3,800 in funding. It currently has a population of about 25,000 and an annual budget of $65,000.
However, District 10, with a population of about 11,000 and an annual budget of $55,000, will not gain any additional funding even though it gains the South Como residents. That is because the population will not increase above the city’s minimum funding threshold.
“From an engagement perspective, I am hopeful that we will see a more involved South Como community as a result of this recommended change,” Brendmoen said. “The Ward 5 office will work with the district councils to help limit administrative challenges that will result from it.”
She said her office is coordinating a team that will be determining steps and layers that need to be considered to enact the change. “Both district councils have agreed that they need time to fully transition and have set Jan. 1, 2014, as an ideal goal date for the recommended change,” she added.
As far as when the City Council will make its decision, Brendmoen said that based on the cooperation and agreement level of the involved stakeholders, she suspects a resolution will move forward as early as this spring.
“I truly appreciate and admire the efforts of both of the district councils and the neighborhood members who worked together to find a solution in a largely uncharted process,” Brendmoen noted.
Shawn Korby, who has been a resident of the South Como neighborhood for 17 years, said he lives very close to Como Park.
“It just makes sense geographically to change the boundaries,” he said. “The neighbors in this area are affected by the park. We would have a voice in issues that directly impact our neighborhood.”
Korby said the support for the move is not a desire to be out of District 6, but more of a desire to be a part of District 10.
“It seems self-evident this change makes sense,” Korby related. “I think District 10 will find a lot of people in the immediate neighborhood want to be involved, and in the end it will be good for all. It was heartening to see such involvement in the big meeting Jan. 9.”