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Louisville neighborhoods split by proposed political maps are pushing back

Louisville Metro Council got a first look Thursday night at the proposed district maps, which will decide how city residents are represented in local government.
Provided by Louisville Metro
Louisville Metro Council got a first look Thursday night at the proposed district maps, which will decide how city residents are represented in local government.

Ann Ramser has lived in Louisville’s South End since 1999. For the last decade she’s been represented in the same Metro Council district, which includes the neighborhoods of Beechmont, Highland Park and Southside. 

But under the new political boundaries proposed by Metro Council’s Redistricting Committee last week, Ramser’s neighborhood would be split.

“I’m going to have District 21 on three sides of me, but I’ll be in District 25,” she said.

Ramser is concerned because she lives in the Urban Services District, which covers areas that were part of the old City of Louisville. Those residents pay a higher property tax rate for things like street lighting, trash pick up and fire protection. Areas outside of the USD, including much of District 25, pay a significantly lower tax rate and usually get their services from one of Jefferson County’s independent cities.

“So, I’m going to be a minority trying to get issues with the USD resolved,” she said. 

Under Kentucky law redistricting maps have to respect existing community boundaries whenever possible. Ramser, who is the secretary for the Iroquois Park Neighborhood Association, said the new maps aren’t in line with that requirement.

“Your residents in neighborhoods have similar interests, but if you’re splitting them between districts it’s harder to keep a political voice,” she said.

In the Iroquois Park area, Kenwood Hills, Southland Park and Auburndale would also be shifted to District 25. The Iroquois Park Neighborhood Association recently penned a letter to its members, urging them to lobby Metro Council to amend the maps to keep the area in one district. 

“The proposal to split the Iroquois Neighborhoods between the two districts fractures our community,” the letter read.

An interactive version of the proposed redistricting maps, created by Louisville Metro’s former chief data officer Michael Schnuerle, are available here.

Other neighborhoods at risk of being split

Ramser’s neighborhood isn’t the only one that could be written out of its current district under the proposed redistricting maps. 

Residents in the Tyler Park neighborhood share those concerns. That neighborhood has traditionally been a part of District 8, which includes most of the Highlands and the Bardstown Road corridor. 

Under the proposed maps, roughly half of the neighborhood and Tyler Park itself would be shifted into District 10, which currently covers neighborhoods around Audubon Park and Bashford Manor.

Shawn Reilly, president of the Tyler Park Neighborhood Association, said being lumped in with the Highlands has historically worked out well for residents. He’s worried areas in District 10 might not have the same interests.

“There’s the large industrial, office complex sort of area around Watterson Park and I’m sure that has its own unique needs,” he said. “We have the commercial corridor along Bardstown Road. So, our interests are going to be things like pedestrian safety and making sure the sidewalks are safe and the crosswalks are accessible. They’re probably more worried about if they can get the trucks out of this industrial area.”

In addition to concerns over political representation, Reilly said there are also practical ones, like trying to get two council members to acknowledge and address the same issues.

“We’re concerned that we might get kicked around like a hot potato,” he said. “We go to one council member and say, ‘Hey, can you help us with this?’ and they’re like, ‘Well, no, you need to go see the other council member,’ and then they say the same thing.”

Residents of other Louisville neighborhoods like Parkway Village near the University of Louisville and Clifton Heights east of downtown, have also raised concerns about being drawn out of their current political districts.

Can the maps be changed?

Tyler Park residents are currently working with District 8 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, a Democrat, to retain as much of the neighborhood and park as possible. 

Chambers Armstrong told WFPL News she has had conversations with Democratic District 10 Council Member Pat Mulvihill and the people tasked with redrawing district boundaries, and plans to submit an amendment soon. Her proposal would be a compromise.

“So far, I have an agreement to move all of the park proper back into District 8, and the parts that are on the other side of the park might have to go to District 10, just because there’s no other way to make it work with the numbers,” Chambers Armstrong said. 

District 17 Council Member Markus Winkler, a Democrat who chairs the Redistricting Committee, said it was always the committee’s intention to keep neighborhoods and communities together in the new maps. But that interest was sometimes in competition with other requirements under state and federal law.

Council members on the Redistricting Committee had to ensure that political districts with populations that were historically majority Black stayed that way. All districts must also be nearly equal in population. Since neighborhoods in west Louisville lost residents and neighborhoods in east Louisville gained, many districts were shifted eastward.

Winkler said making changes to the proposed maps is not as simple as just shifting some blocks to different districts.

“It’s like dominos,” he said. “Moving a group of people from one area to the other, potentially there would be a corresponding offset in another area. If you can’t do that then you’re impacting a third district. If you have to offset there, then you’re impacting a fourth district and so on.”

Because new Metro Council district maps must be approved by December 7th, Winkler said it’s likely the committee will focus on concerned neighborhoods where shifting boundary lines will have the smallest impact on other districts. Metro Council members will also be expected to weigh in on proposed changes to their districts.

The Redistricting Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday at 5 p.m. to hear from residents about the potential impact of the new maps. Residents can also submit comments to Metro Council online through Nov. 4.

The committee will schedule another meeting next month to take up any amendments to the redistricting maps, Winkler said.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.