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Committee on City Council districts to scrutinize proposed maps at meeting

This is one of the 17 Merced City Council districts maps so far submitted by Merced residents. The Independent Districting Advisory Committee is set to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rivera Middle School, 945 Buena Vista Drive.
This is one of the 17 Merced City Council districts maps so far submitted by Merced residents. The Independent Districting Advisory Committee is set to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rivera Middle School, 945 Buena Vista Drive. tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

Meetings that will change the way people are elected to the Merced City Council continue this week as proposed district maps are studied closely.

The Independent Districting Advisory Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rivera Middle School, 945 Buena Vista Drive. The meeting is open to anyone.

The committee is collecting proposed maps that would split Merced into six districts, one for each member of the council. The mayor will continue to be elected by the city as a whole.

So far, 17 maps have been submitted from members of the public.

Advocates for district elections have said the change should give better representation to south Merced, an area of town south of Highway 99. All six sitting council members in Merced live north of Bear Creek, so many of the maps would have members of the council competing directly for the same seats.

The Independent Districting Advisory Committee is collecting proposed maps that would split Merced into six districts, one for each member of City Council

About half of the submitted maps have followed the guidelines agreed upon by the city and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that last year pushed the council to move to districts. Under those guidelines, three of the six districts are to be drawn south of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, and the districts should be population-balanced.

The committee and Merced residents soon will be whittling the larger list of proposed maps down to a few that will be proposed to the council in September. The maps are online and are set to be on display at all public meetings of the committee.

The committee is working with National Demographics Corp., a Southern California firm that has performed work in many regions of the country, according to city records.

The districts are also supposed to make the City Council more representative of Merced’s ethnic demographics.

Though the city’s population is 49.6 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. census, the mayor and five of the councilmen are white. The seventh member is Hmong.

The council is also set to replace a member of the seven-person committee who had to vacate the position for health reasons. The council is supposed to pick the replacement at its Monday meeting.

Another meeting about the districts is planned at 2 p.m. Aug. 1 at Tenaya Middle School, 760 W. 18th St. For more, go to www.cityofmerced.org.

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