September 11, 2021

Mallory Herrmann
Staff Reporter

The City of Lee’s Summit is working to redefine city council districts, a process that occurs every ten years as required by the city’s charter.

Lee’s Summit has four council districts, with two councilmembers elected to represent each of them. Once the city has received data from the United States decennial census, they are tasked with ensuring that the districts have even representation and are both contiguous and compact.

The United States Census Bureau released the results of the 2020 census on Aug. 12, which indicated a total city population of 101,108 people. If the city were to maintain the current district boundaries, the representation across the four districts would be unbalanced.

Ryan Elam, director of development services, presented three initial options for redistricting at the city council’s Sept. 7 meeting. Using the census data, the revised district boundaries will ensure that the total population differences between districts are no more than ± 5%. With the scenarios proposed by staff, that difference is no more than ± 1%.

The council gave consensus that the first option seemed best, as it was closest to the existing district boundaries. Several councilmembers offered input for their own districts, recommending that some neighborhoods be shifted in order to maintain consistency and reduce confusion.

Councilmember Diane Forte noted that, for instance, the Raintree Reserve neighborhood is actually in district 2 – while the rest of the Raintree community is in district 1. As a district 1 councilmember, she said she occasionally gets contacted by those residents, who don’t always realize they reside in a different district.

City staff were taking notes on the councilmembers’ input in order to tweak the first redistricting map. They will present them for council review later this month.

In the meantime, the city has posted a notice for a public hearing on Sept. 21 to get input from residents. The redistricting process traditionally includes a public commission and more robust engagement with the community.

Due to delays related to COVID-19, however, the 2020 census data was delayed. And in order to ensure those delays don’t cause problems with the April city council election, staff and council alike are working to complete the redistricting in a shorter time frame.

Per the city’s charter, candidates for city council must meet a six-month residency requirement. For prospective candidates, changing district boundaries could create confusion around which district they would represent if elected.

With a Sept. 21 public hearing, the city council hopes to finalize the new district boundaries at their Oct. 5 meeting – just in time to be solidified ahead of the April 5 election.

No formal action was taken by the council; all councilmembers were present.