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Detroit Council districts: And the winner is ...Option 3

The Detroit City Council has approved a map that will be used to guide future Council elections.

The map divides the city into seven districts. Starting next year, Detroit will elect their Council members by district. Currently, all nine members are elected at large.

The Council chose “Option 3,” one of the four options the city’s Planning Commission created for them to choose from.

Vince Keenan runs Publius.org, a voter information website, and one of the forces behind the Council-by-districts idea.

But Keenan says the process of actually drawing a map has been secretive and rushed. He also thinks “Option 3” is a bad deal for southwest Detroit—where the city’s Latino community is concentrated.

“Option 3” does not contain southwest Detroit as a standalone district.

“After a 40-year effort to try and get a voice at Council table, I believe what Council just did was make sure that voice was filtered through a downtown perspective,” Keenan said.

Keenan and many other citizens had championed an alternative map drawn up by a non-profit group, Data Driven Detroit. That map divided the city with an eye toward keeping distinct communities together in one district, and proved popular at public hearings.

But Council members rejected that map on legal grounds, saying it wasn’t clear neighborhood boundaries could be used as a criteria for drawing the lines.

Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown says he chose Option 3 because of overwhelming feedback from constituents. He also rejected any suggestion that the process wasn’t transparent.

“We went out into the community. We had 10 community meetings,” Brown said. “We accepted as much input as we could get. And we made a decision. And we knew before we made the decision that everyone would not be happy.”

However, Brown says he expects the map to be challenged in court. That would need to happen within the next 30 days.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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