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North Little Rock council OKs new city wards

by Neal Earley | April 12, 2022 at 7:02 a.m.
North Little Rock City Hall at 300 Main St. is shown in this 2020 file photo.

The North Little Rock City Council finished the city's redistricting process Monday night, unanimously approving a new map for the city's wards.

Like redistricting at the federal and state level, North Little Rock was required to reshape its wards after the decennial census. But unlike federal or state level redistricting, North Little Rock's new map was approved without debate among the city's elected officials.

The city council had originally planned to approve the new map during a meeting in March but held off after council member Debi Ross of Ward 1 suggested residents be given more time to weigh in.

Since then, most council members said they heard little to no feedback on the new ward boundaries, with Ross saying "I have not heard one thing from anyone."

The city barely grew from 2010 to 2020, adding just 1,687 residents, bringing the city's population to 64,591 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As planning director for North Little Rock, Shawn Spencer took the lead in drawing the new ward boundaries aiming to make the populations of the four wards about equal, which would be approximately 16,148 residents per ward. The racial demographics of the city's ward also will remain roughly the same, Spencer said.

As the ward with the highest population, Ward 3 -- which cover's the western part of the city -- lost the most from redistricting.

Portions of the city's Levy neighborhood will move from Ward 3 to Ward 1. Residents in Levy had little to no reaction to the new ward boundaries according to Doug McDowall, who leads a neighborhood association there.

Even on the council, the dividing lines between districts can be hard to memorize.

"The people that they're bringing into Ward 2, we already thought they were in Ward 2," said council member Linda Robinson of Ward 2 in an interview last week. "So we've been taking care of them because we thought they were in the ward and they thought they were in the ward. So now it's official."

In Arkansas, responsibility for local-level redistricting is handled at the local level. For cities with a strong mayor form of government, such as in North Little Rock, the council votes on the new maps. For city's with a city manager, the county election commission has the final say.

As for the Census, some council members -- and the mayor -- took issue with the U.S. Census Bureau's count of the city, saying they felt the city's limited growth was due to an undercount from the federal government.

"Personally I don't think we got a good count, but it is what it is," Mayor Terry Hartwick said.

Some of the changes include:

• In Ward 3, 728 people who live between W. 51st Street and W. 47th Street will move to Ward 1. An additional 816 residents south of Scenic Drive between Pike Avenue and John Ashley Drive will move from Ward 3 to Ward 2. Between W. 47th Street and MacArthur Drive, 881 residents will shift from Ward 3 to Ward 1.

• Between Camp Robinson Road, Velvet Ridge Drive and W. 47th Street, 687 residents will move from Ward 4 to Ward 1.

Print Headline: NLR City Council unanimously OK’s new ward boundaries

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