The Carmel City Council approved new council district boundaries at its Nov. 5 meeting, with Tony Green – the councilor most affected by the changes – casting the lone vote in opposition.
Carmel is adding a new city council district as a result of becoming a second class city. The new councilor will be elected in 2019 and take office in 2020. The council will also add an at-large seat at that time, taking the council from seven to nine members.
The new plan creates west, north, central, northeast, southwest and southeast districts with between 15,000 and 15,600 residents in each. The current councilors reside in separate districts under the new plan, with the future west district not currently having representation.
Some of the districts, such as the northeast and central, are geographically similar to existing districts. Green, however, will lose nearly half of his precincts or 12,000 residents in the southwest district, he said.
“There is no other district that has that change of representation,” he said, adding that he is “disappointed” that the council didn’t consider an amended plan submitted by Home Place resident Eric Morris.
Councilor Sue Finkam served as the city’s redistricting coordinator and worked with the law firm Kroger, Gardis & Regas to draft the city’s plan. Members of the public, including Morris, submitted five other options, but the council supported Finkam’s plan as it had the least deviation from the ideal district population, a number calculated by dividing the city’s population by the number of districts.
Brian Bosma, an attorney with Kroger, Gardis & Regas who is also the speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives , said he would’ve encouraged the council to select whichever plan had the least deviation – submitted by the public or not – as long as it met all other requirements.
“I would be counseling you to either adopt their plan or change your plan to beat that standard deviation,” Bosma said. “It really is the key.”
Three members of the public spoke against the council’s decision to support its own plan.
Bill McGinnis, a Carmel resident who moved back to the city this summer, said he didn’t understand why an unbiased third party wasn’t used to draft a plan rather than a city councilor.
“The way this was undertaken seems just a little bit odd to me,” he said.
Other concerns included the fact that members of the public did not have an opportunity to amend their plans while the council did and that the guidelines were primarily about avoiding lawsuits, not producing the best plan.
Bosma, who said he has helped dozens of local governments follow redistricting law since 1991, said that it was among his goals to help the city avoid going to court over its redistricting process.
“My job is to assure that your plan meets all state and federal requirements and it’s not subject to litigation,” Bosma said. “Or if it is subject to litigation, it is successful.”
The council expects to file a certified copy of an ordinance establishing the new districts with the clerk of the Hamilton County Circuit Court by Dec. 5.