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Mayor: Will put students on redistricting committee

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told Northwestern University student government leaders this week that she's willing to appoint students to a committee that will recommend how to redistrict the city in response to last year's census.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told Northwestern University student government leaders this week that she's willing to appoint students to a committee that will recommend how to redistrict the city in response to last year's census.

But she said she'd have trouble pledging that a redistricting plan would include a single ward with a primarily student population — a goal of some student activists — because student turnout has been so low in recent municipal elections.

Just 13 votes were cast in two campus precincts in the last city election in 2009, she said at the Wednesday night meeting at Fisk Hall on campus.

Tisdahl said that when the city last redrew ward boundaries after the 2000 census "what really went down was not so pretty."

She said then 1st Ward alderman Art Newman sought to redraw his ward's boundaries to exclude students, because they hadn't voted for him.

To assure that all wards would have roughly equal populations, the plan, she said was to move students into the 2nd and 5th Wards.

"At that point the NAACP objected," Tisdahl said, and threatened to sue because those two wards had traditionally been minority-majority wards and the addition of students would dilute the black vote.

And, she added, students also threatened to sue because the proposal would have split them up among as many as three or four wards.

Tisdahl, who at the time had just been appointed 7th Ward alderman, said she agreed to have the 7th Ward's boundaries redrawn to include student areas being dropped from the 1st Ward.

"I'd be happen to have the NAACP not suing," she said, but it ended up with having the 7th Ward "incredibly strangely drawn."

It may be a while before the remapping process gets under way.

City staffers last week said that because of massive changes from 2000 to 2010 in the way the census handles block-level data, the staff hasn't yet been able to align the block-level data with a map of the city.

What was a single block typically bounded by four streets in 2000, is now often split into several block segments using a different numbering scheme.

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