Divided Grosse Pointe Shores City Council approves redistricting resolution

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 25, 2021


GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The Grosse Pointes have presented a fairly united front when it comes to advocating for the five Pointes and Harper Woods once again being in the same legislative district.

But at least one official in Grosse Pointe Shores thinks there can be a downside to all the communities sharing a single state representative and senator.

The Shores City Council discussed a redistricting resolution that’s been making the rounds in the six communities during a meeting over Zoom Aug. 17.

City Manager Steve Poloni said having the Pointes and Harper Woods in a single district “would give us significant voting power … and give us a greater voice in the legislative process.”

But City Councilman Matthew Seely broke from widespread support across party lines for the resolution, noting that Michigan is losing one congressional district as a result of population losses since 2010 and “we don’t know where” the lost district is coming from.

“Yes, it’s great for Grosse Pointe to be unified and include all of us … (but) you never know how a district is going to be drawn out,” Seely said.

He said it might be more advantageous for the communities to have two representatives in Lansing, as is the case now for the Michigan House and Michigan Senate.

“There are pros and cons to this,” Seely said.

Seely cast the sole vote against the redistricting resolution, which passed by a vote of 5-1. Shores City Councilwoman Sandra Cavataio was absent from the Aug. 17 meeting.

“I understand your concerns, but ultimately, we’re trying to be united,” Mayor Ted Kedzierski told Seely.

The resolution approved by the council notes, in part, that “division of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods into multiple legislatives districts does not respect the long-established redistricting principle to draw elected representatives’ district boundaries to respect communities of interest,” and “redistricting should allow a long-time combined community, its residents, businesses, infrastructure, and the community as a whole, to be represented together to have an effective and unified voice in Lansing and Washington, D.C.”

Although the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods had long been part of the same Michigan House and Senate districts, all that changed following the 2010 census, when the communities were split into two different state House and Senate districts, although they remained together in a single U.S. congressional district. Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores were in one district, while Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Park were in the other.

The Grosse Pointes and a portion of Harper Woods share a school district — the Grosse Pointe Public School System — and the Grosse Pointe Public Library system, as well as mutual aid for police and fire services. They are also linked by the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce, the Grosse Pointes-Clinton Refusal Disposal Authority for trash disposal, and many other shared initiatives.

Redistricting takes place every 10 years, after results from the most recent U.S. census have been compiled and the number of U.S. congressional representatives are determined for each state. In the past, redistricting of state and federal legislative districts was done by state legislators, meaning that the party in power was able to draw district boundaries that favored its members.

In November 2018, Michiganders voted to amend the state constitution and create what is now known as the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to create boundaries for the Michigan House, Michigan Senate and U.S. congressional districts. A 13-member panel of randomly selected Michigan voters makes up the commission — four self-identify as Democrats, four self-identify as Republicans and five don’t affiliate with either major party.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was still working on district maps at press time and is expected to finalize those boundaries by Nov. 1 so that they can be legally implemented by Dec. 31, 2021.