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Island precinct needs new home

Island precinct needs new home

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Take a careful look at a Rapid City ward map and it's easy to see why alderman and mayoral candidate Sam Kooiker wants to move a small island in a North Rapid neighborhood back into Ward 4.

The precinct is bounded on the south by the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Anamosa Street on the north, Wood Avenue on the east and I-90 on the west.

Why the neighborhood was lumped into Ward 5 in the last redistricting defies common sense, considering I-90 cuts it off from the rest of Ward 5.

That doesn't necessarily mean there was any grand conspiracy to gerrymander the area, giving an unfair advantage to one political party or group.

The law requires that each of the five city wards contain roughly 20 percent of the city population.

Accomplishing that within plus or minus 5 percent can sometimes be a tricky proposition.

During the last redistricting, the county auditor recommended dividing that precinct along a ridge line, to attain the required population balance in a somewhat logical way.

Kooiker believes the neighborhood was isolated to dilute Native American voting strength, but he wasn't on the city council at the time and no one raised the issue.

At a recent campaign appearance, Kooiker noted that Mayor Alan Hanks made the motion to move the precinct into Ward 5 in 2002.

But that more likely happened as a matter of routine.

Kooiker was elected five months later and first raised the issue of the awkward boundary line in 2004.

Hanks and Kooiker agree nothing could be done about it at that time.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years after completion of the census count. And any subsequent changes can trigger a domino effect that requires starting from scratch to achieve the required population balance.

Hanks said he agrees the issue should be addressed when the time is right. But he said the targeted neighborhood is primarily white, middle class - not Native American.

Either way, it makes more sense geographically to move the neighborhood back to Ward 4 when the next city redistricting process starts later this year.

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