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City councilman wants to divide OKC into more wards


Emily Jerman March 15th, 2007

While an Oklahoma City councilman says adding two wards could improve municipal representation, members of the council have differing opinions on what its repercussions might be.   Though no such prop...

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While an Oklahoma City councilman says adding two wards could improve municipal representation, members of the council have differing opinions on what its repercussions might be.
 
Though no such proposal is on the table, a black councilwoman fears ward fragmentation could dilute minority participation in city government.
 
TWO MORE WARDS
After recent city elections, in which three of four candidates ran unopposed, Ward 4 councilman Pete White is hoping the council will augment the now eight-ward, eight-member council to 10 within two years.
 
"I think the result would be council members that were closer to their constituencies both geographically and numerically, and I think that's what good municipal government's made of," he said.
 
MINORITY REPRESENTATION
While White said he hasn't pushed the issue because he'd like to better know public opinion, some people, including Mayor Mick Cornett and Ward 7 councilwoman Willa Johnson, question changing a system that seems to be working.
 
"My impression, yes, (is) that the people are being represented well," Cornett said.
 
Of the current council members, seven are Caucasian and two are women, representing a city that is, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 68 percent white, 15 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and almost evenly divided between men and women.
 
DECREASED PARTICIPATION
While Johnson said a "good representative is going to be a good representative, no matter what his or her ethnicity is," there are more important priorities to her than addressing ward population or size.
 
"In my ward, the majority of the folks who live here are African-American," she said. "Now, if you cut that up "¦ once you dilute that minority, you're going to decrease the chances of that minority participation." "Emily Jerman
 
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