By Ryan Wollersheim

The Madison Common council adopted a new Alder district map last week bringing some big changes for Madison communities both large and small. The Badger Report’s Ryan Wollersheim has the story.

The new alder district map, shown here, will go into effect starting January 1st. Delays in 2020 census data during the pandemic forced this usual four-month redistricting process to happen in just about half the time. City planner Ben Zellers says this shortened timeline affected this process for both the city and Dane County.

“We basically had to start the race at the same time. Instead of it being a relay it was just both of us trying to get to the finish line on time.”

With a list of crucial criteria to consider and less time to do so, it’s no surprise that a community like the Arbor Hills neighborhood would have to make an uncomfortable transition out of their home District 14.

The new boundary line between Districts 10 and 14 will now be located here along the Cannonball Bike Path just on the edge of the Arbor Hills neighborhood. This means the trail will now both physically and politically separate Arbor Hills from its local elementary school, Leopold, located just around the corner.

Arbor Hills will now be in a district that largely represents the Madison Memorial attendance area while Leopold Elementary is in the West attendance area – the two largest high school attendance areas in Madison. Longtime substitute teacher and Arbor Hills treasurer-elect Mary Sara worries the needs of both areas will be difficult for a single alder to represent.

“Memorial has a set of issues that are unlike West’s. So, you’re introducing, you know, to a certain degree, apples and oranges and making it much more complicated than it needs to be.”

District 14 Alder Sheri Carter did try to keep Arbor Hills in her district arguing that the neighborhood was an integral part of the South Madison community. But her proposal had fewer total districts with at least 35 percent people of color and would have split the Burr Oaks neighborhood between alder districts – just another example of the many delicate tradeoffs that will affect neighborhoods and communities across Madison for the next decade.  

For the Badger Report, I’m Ryan Wollersheim.

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