The City of Reno is now broken into five wards. However, as of Jan. 1, 2024, the city will need to be divided into six wards and replace the at-large council position with a representative for the new ward.
On Wednesday, a set of “Redistricting Principles” were discussed and adopted and will be followed by community input and independent analytics throughout the summer. The final maps will be delivered to the Registrar of Voters Office by Sept. 1.
The principles agreed upon to create a sixth ward by staff and Council include following all state and federal regulations, ensuring wards are virtually equal in population and are geographically contiguous, keeping neighborhoods with common interests and affinities intact.
Council members whose terms extend beyond 2024 will retain their seats during redistricting, even if the new districts place them outside of their current ward.
To create the sixth ward, each existing ward will lose about 8,500 individuals to the new ward.
Council members Jenny Brekhus and Meghan Ebert advocated for the creation of a committee to determine ward lines to avoid issues between council members. They also raised concern about other council members meddling in the redistricting process.
An independent consulting group, Flow Analytics, has been retained to create the maps as a neutral third party.
“Why didn’t we do a tentative map for this when we did the 2021 census update?” Ebert asked.
Assistant City Manager JW Hodge said it would have potentially been an ethics issue, as the new law dictating the creation of the sixth ward had not gone into effect.
The sixth ward was decided in 2017 but Mayor Hillary Schieve tried to keep the at-large ward this year at the Legislature. The bill did not make it out of a legislative committee after it was poorly received by legislators and the public.
Duerr said it was important to have map designers who understand the communities.
“There were some maps [drawn before 2021] that cut HOAs in half, cut communities in half, and those people – we had one that 30 letters were sent in saying, ‘Don’t cut us in half!’ That may look like just a place on a map to a consultant but to us, it’s our community, it’s our HOA, we don’t want two representatives,” she said. “They were hurt.”
Duerr said the Flow Analytics consultants paid attention to the public and the process was seen as clean and transparent.
Brekhus said she could not support the process as she believed the drawing of the maps could be influenced by council members or staff.
Postcards will be sent to every resident in the city of Reno beginning next week to provide information regarding the sixth ward creation, in what is potentially the largest mailing the city has ever done, according to Hodge.
The staff report can be viewed in its entirety here.