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Buckeye Council could vote on district lines Tuesday

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BUCKEYE — New home construction in Buckeye pushed its City Council districts out of whack over the past 10 years.

At its Tuesday, Dec. 7 meeting, the Council is scheduled to vote on new boundaries for its six districts, using 2020 U.S. Census and other population and residence data.

Among the problems redistricting is meant to solve, in Buckeye’s case, is District 6 for its nearly 100,000 total residents having about 25,000 people, while District 2 only has about 8,000 residents.

State law calls for a 5% variance between districts. That means city staff, working with a California consultant who knows West Valley cities well, has had to re-craft Buckeye’s six Council districts.

By consensus at a Nov. 16 workshop, the Council told Doug Johnson, the consultant, to work with “Map B,” as presented in the packet. He will modify it and bring it to the Dec. 7 meeting.

Procedures call for the Council to adopt a resolution, establishing criteria for use in redistricting, at a regular meeting. Maricopa County leaders are allowing municipalities a deadline of Jan. 7, 2022, to re-draw council boundaries.

Buckeye’s population is listed as 92,502 based on its April 1, 2020 U.S. Census snapshot date and the split of the six districts use this total. However between permitting, construction, home sales and leases and new move-ins since April 2020, Buckeye officials believe there are actually between 95,000 and 100,000 people living in the city now.

Buckeye’s population essentially doubled since the last time Council districts were re-drawn. Most, though clearly not all, of the new home construction has taken place north of I-10, with homes and industrial/commercial development now filling in gaps south of the interstate.

At the Nov. 16 workshop, the Council also gave Johnson plenty of feedback on likes and dislikes and issues to attempt to rectify or improve in the weeks ahead.

One aspect Council member Craig Heustis complained about a proposed map that would split the Sundance development into two Council districts along Yuma Road.

Johnson said he would do his best to get all of Sundance into one district, or as much of it as possible.

City Clerk Lucinda Aja pointed out that it is “incredibly difficult” to move a boundary without throwing off the balance of at least one district.

She and Heustis both said they spent several hours Monday trying to make numbers work — keeping the total number of citizens close to the same in all six districts without splitting up communities or developments.

One of the stated priorities in redistricting, according to Johnson’s presentation, is planned future growth. While taking the 5% maximum variation between districts into account, Johnson and staff can come up with districts that currently include less than one-sixth of the population, knowing more homes are likely to be built there soon.

Other stated priorities include keeping communities of interest together, keeping districts compact and contiguous, using visible natural or man-made boundaries, respecting voter choices, attempting to keep many residents from having to be represented by a new Council member and in a different election cycle and preserving the core of existing election areas.

The city is spending more than $100,000 with Johnson’s firm, the National Demographics Corporation, for redistricting knowledge, analysis, mapping and presentation.

The new boundary lines will be in place for the 2022 election cycle. That’s when Buckeye districts 4, 5, and 6 are up for election. Primaries are set for Tuesday, Aug. 2.

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