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Bremerton City Council approves new district boundaries

The Bremerton City Council passed updated City Council district boundaries Wednesday. The nine district boundaries were redrawn to even out population numbers in each district according to 2010 Census data.

“Every 10 years we’re required to do that — populations shift, there have been annexations — so we try to even out the districts,” said Will Maupin, City Council president.

A main change was removing some people out of District 4, and into surrounding districts. Other districts were not affected as much. Some Bremerton residents find neighborhoods being split while others don’t have any concerns at all about the boundaries.

Hurene Jackson, 81, said he is happy to see the districts boundaries updated but at the same time said he hopes no neighborhoods are being divided. Jackson lives in District 8.

“They shouldn’t break up neighborhoods,” Jackson said. “Because it’s like family — people know each other and they help each other.”

The city says no neighborhoods were torn apart.

“We didn’t split up any neighborhoods, as far as I’m aware of,” said Bill Eley, a city information technician who was assigned with redrawing the district boundaries. He said working in information technology and not having familiarity with Bremerton neighborhoods, he ran the proposed changes by the Department of Community Development.

Eley said that about 2,000 people were moved out of District 4 and into districts 7 and 5. From the newest census data, the population in District 4 was a little more than 6,000 people and the target is supposed to be around 4,192, he said.

The updated districts include populations from 4,143 to 4,228 people.

Ten years ago when the city went through the redistricting process, Maupin said an outside consultant was hired and “took the liberty” to even out the number of votes that were cast in each district, which is why numbers in District 4 increased. Because Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is in that district, many of the navy personnel vote in their home state and not in Bremerton, which leaves the district with a lower voter turnout, said Maupin.

“The law clearly states to do it on number of residents and not on voter turnout,” said Maupin, adding that he is not sure why the redistricting was done that way 10 years ago.

“When you think about it, it’s not for us to decide whether or not people are going to vote,” he added.

Some residents, even if they are voters, don’t have issues with the redistricting — even if it split up their neighborhood.

“It wouldn’t matter to me,” said Mary Walden. “I don’t think it would affect me that much.”

Walden, 86, who lives on Madrona Point Drive, said that she doesn’t have strong feelings toward the process because she and her neighbors do not talk much with one another.

Daniel Abramson, an associate professor with the Department of Urban Planning at the University of Washington, said keeping neighborhoods together during redistricting has its advantages, including giving an effective voice to a community that often has meaningful common interests in a shared space.

“Neighborhoods are often composed of groups who share certain demographic characteristics,” he said.

Although, Abramson said that districts should have roughly the same population sizes in order to maintain representation equity.

For some Bremerton residents, breaking up neighborhoods seems inevitable — and an issue.

“When you have one side of the street in one district and another side in another district, you don’t have a unified neighborhood,” said Todd Best, who lives in District 7.

Best, 38, was initially concerned with the original proposed redistricting boundaries when he saw that Carol Arends, city councilwomen of District 7 and Forest Ridge Park, were removed from District 7 and added to District 8.

“I was a little ticked off that they removed our city councilwoman out of our district. And they took a park, that we worked on,” Best said. “Is this a way you say ‘thank you’ to a woman who has given service?”

After voicing his opinion to the City Council, Arends and the park were placed back into District 7.

Best has lived in the area since November 2006 and in District 7 since 2008 and said the boundaries should not have been drawn that way in the first place.

Sara Gregoire, who also lives in District 7, said she hadn’t paid much attention to the redistricting, but said that if it affected where her son goes to school in the future, she may have something to say. Gregoire, 31, said that she grew up in Bremerton and because of redistricting, she attended both Naval Avenue and Crown Hill elementary schools during her childhood.

“As a little kid, it was hard. I didn’t move,” Gregoire said.

Living in the area of Callow Avenue and Burwell Street, Gregoire said her neighborhood is “enough of a community to say we don’t want a methadone clinic.”

“Everyone says Callow is making a comeback. I hope so,” she added.

Although the districts have now been updated, should voters decided to shrink the City Council size from nine to seven members this November, the city would go through the process again.

“Let’s not waste tax payers’ money or time,” said Best.

Maupin said that if voters decide to retain nine councilmembers, nothing more would need to be done. If the council size does decrease, “at least we had the experience of doing it once,” he said of redistricting.

“I just want to see things get done, see the city move forward.” Best said. “It’s a gold mine waiting to be mined.”

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