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Council Votes on New Ward Maps

 The City Council works though several pages of budget ordinances and amendments Monday, Oct. 10 to pass the overall budget.
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The City Council works though several pages of budget ordinances and amendments Monday, Oct. 10 to pass the overall budget.

Will take effect next year; includes more significant changes to City Wards 2, 3 and 4

The Evansville City Council passed a new ward redistricting ordinance at the Monday Night meeting.

The City Council is required to administer the redrawing of city ward maps after each census. The last redrawing was in 2013; the goal is to balance the wards by population.

Half of the city’s six wards will undergo “profound” changes according to City Council President Zac Heronemus, who coordinated this project.

 Council President Zac Heronemus
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Council President Zac Heronemus

“We've made Third Ward more compact, Fourth Ward — a little less compact, Second Ward more compact, but keeping in mind that we have communities of interest,” he said during the meeting.

This means some neighborhoods that are currently split will be rejoined — such as the University of Evansville neighborhood in Ward 2. A southwestern section of Ward 4 is now joining with Ward 1 as the riverside downtown ward.

“It makes much more sense to have communities of economic and community development needs that surround downtown,” Heronemus said.

With amendments made at the meeting, there are no split voting precincts, though some voters will change precincts when the wards are implemented next year.

The vote was 7-2 with Republicans Justin Elpers and Jonanthan Weaver dissenting. The Council's third Republican Ron Beane voted along with the Democrat majority.

Elpers and Weaver expressed frustration with the process of drawing the maps offered by Heronemus.

During the Monday night meeting, Weaver said the process was “botched” from the beginning, when Heronemus proposed the use of a contractor, Mainstreet Communications (MSC), which advertises Democrat policial clients winning in Republican districts.

Previously, Heronemus said MSC also offers non-partisan services — like this one. In late 2021, MSC was approved by vote along the same lines as the ward ordinance.

Weaver officially proposed County Surveyor Linda Freeman’s map, which she drafted voluntarily while Heronemus administered the map he proposed.

 Ward 5 Council Member Justin Elpers supports the adoption of the map proposed by member Jonathan Weaver.
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Ward 5 Council Member Justin Elpers supports the adoption of the map proposed by member Jonathan Weaver.

Elpers supported the use of Freeman’s map, which was rejected in a separate vote.

“Every district changes,” Elpers said of the map proposed by Heronemus. “And Council Member Heronemus did not do the due diligence of having the public forums where we could have discussed and had some give and take and hammer these details out. So based on this evidence, I will be voting ‘no’ on this one.”

Heronemus says the council members whose districts changed the most were in open communication as the maps were being drawn, and did not object to the final product.

He had admitted previously that he could have better engaged the public.

Elpers said there were no public notices or hearings to get feedback on the maps, and he felt the redrawing process through MSC was secretive. When he had approached Heronemus for a copy of the map in Spetember, he said he wasn’t allowed to take one.

“This is not a map that is ready to come forward, number one” Heronemus said, listing his reasons at the time. “(I) wanted to have conversations with you. And you gave me some feedback and never requested any changes to your ward.”

He also said he didn’t want them to go public with the draft forms of the map yet.

Ward 2 Council Member Missy Mosby said that after meetings and discussions about the changes to her ward, she took a personal tour of it.

“I actually went and drove the area; it really kind of brings me back to the ward I had when I first started running for office,” she said. “So it kind of brings it back into what it used to be.”

Mosby said she held her own neighborhood meeting over the changes, and took constituent questions to Heronemus. “I feel like it was also our responsibility to talk to our constituents as well,” she said. “I Think perhaps my problem with this argument is that we're focusing on process and not content,” she said. “… and I'm not hearing at this point, at least a lot of problems with content as the map stands.”

After approximately 30 minutes of discussion, the council voted on the map spearheaded by Heronemus.

Audio of the full Monday, October 24 discussion and vote of the maps are available above.

 A draft of the new Evansville City ward maps which was passed on Monday Night.
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A cropped draft of the new Evansville City ward maps which was passed on Monday Night.