Critic Suggests Ward Redistricting Unfair to Minorities

In a special session held Dec. 1, the Reno City Council voted unanimously to schedule a vote on ward redistricting in two weeks, only to reverse that decision after a critic claimed that the current plan was unfair to minorities living in northeast Reno.

With no objections from the public, the City Council voted on “Option B,” which redistricts Reno’s wards based on recent census information. However, the plan had come under criticism from Lonnie Feemster, president of the Reno-Sparks branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Feemster arrived to the meeting approximately nine minutes late. The City Council permitted him to speak even though it had already voted on the issue..

Feemster argued that the urban core, a concentration of minorities, immigrants and young progressives in Reno’s poorest neighborhoods, are being divided up among three of Reno’s wards in such a way that the citizen’s political voices are diluted.

“We should have some say in what our political boundaries are,” Feemster said to the City Council.

Feemster then suggested that the city-recommended boundaries are tied into the locations of the homes of City Council incumbents, eliciting a confused look from councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza.

Councilman David Aiazzi recommended to the council that the issue be reopened, negating the vote taken at the beginning of the meeting. The unanimous positive vote allowed Feemster to present his case in detail.

Feemster presented a map to the council titled “Option D”, explaining the boundaries he believed to present a fairer representation of northeast Reno. However, Aiazzi saw other areas that would be split up due to Feemster’s map.

The Reno City Council originally planned to approve redistricting “Option B,” but will also consider Lonnie Feemster’s “Option D.”

The City Council, after questioning and listening to Feemster for about 45 minutes, decided that the issue will be discussed and voted on December 14.

Afterward, Feemster expressed some frustration about the meeting but also said that he was glad to be heard.

“It seemed like the council was open to hearing the arguments,” Feemster said.

During the session, Aiazzi commented that he had not seen a large group of people from the area in contention contacting the City Council with concerns about the area.

After the meeting, Feemster commented that northeast Reno is a working-class neighborhood.

“They can’t take time off work to go to a meeting,” Feemster said, adding that he has spent more than five hours meeting with the City Council just to be prepared for the special session. The NAACP serves as an advocate to the residents of the area and has been discussing this issue for six months.

The Reno City Council needs to approve a redistricting plan before the end of the calendar year. It will meet at noon, Dec. 14 to decide on a plan.


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