Grosse Pointes hope for a happy legislative district reunion

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 26, 2021

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GROSSE POINTES — There’s power in numbers, and that seems to be behind the push by the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods to be reunited into a single legislative district again.

In recent weeks, local leaders have been voting on a resolution asking the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to reunite the cities once again. The resolution states, in part, that “division of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods into multiple legislative 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 formerly long been a 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.

“In the redistricting 10 years ago, the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods were separated for the first time,” Grosse Pointe Park Mayor Robert Denner said in July. “That resulted in the loss of revenue and representation for all of (the communities).”

The Grosse Pointe Farms City Council was the latest to throw its support behind a resolution calling on the state citizen commission currently working on district boundaries to again put all of the communities together. During a meeting Aug. 9, the council voted unanimously in favor of the redistricting resolution.

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.

Farms City Councilman Lev Wood asked that the redistricting resolution be moved off the consent agenda and onto the regular agenda so it would be subject to council comment.

“I think this is a terrific idea,” Wood said. “It’s a great resolution. I think it’s worthy of discussion.”

Farms Mayor Louis Theros said the redistricting issue was one they talked about at a recent meeting of the mayors and city managers of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods.

“We want to stay together (in a single legislative district),” Theros said.

Farms City Councilman Neil Sroka said that both the Grosse Pointe Democratic Club and the Eastside Republican Club had voiced support for keeping the Pointes and Harper Woods together.

“It’s a rare point of agreement across party lines,” Sroka said.

The League of Women Voters of Grosse Pointe also voiced support for reunifying the cities, noting that these east side communities share a number of common interests, including water quality, a seawall and invasive species issues facing Lake St. Clair.

At a meeting June 21, the Grosse Pointe City Council voted unanimously in favor of the redistricting resolution as part of its consent agenda.

The Grosse Pointe Woods City Council approved the redistricting resolution, as well, during a meeting Aug. 16.

The Grosse Pointe Park City Council voted unanimously in favor of the redistricting resolution during a meeting July 12.

“We want to have the stamina and strength … to secure federal (funding for infrastructure),” Park City Councilwoman Michele Hodges said.

Noting that the population of the Pointes and Harper Woods alone likely wouldn’t qualify for a single district, Park City Councilwoman Aimee Rogers Fluitt said she wanted to make sure that the resolution wasn’t perceived as excluding the east side of Detroit. Legislative district boundaries have traditionally been drawn such that part of Detroit has been in the same district with the Pointes and Harper Woods. Denner said the resolution doesn’t in any way exempt Detroit from the mix; it simply asks that the Pointes and Harper Woods all occupy the same district.

“Hopefully our voice, along with the voices of our neighbors, will be heard and restored,” Denner said.

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.

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