Oklahoma City Council members agreed Tuesday to see how the electoral map would look if boundaries were redrawn to make Capitol Hill the focus of its own ward.
The current boundaries, adopted after the 2010 census, divide the area traditionally known as Capitol Hill among Wards 4, 6 and 7.
Ward 4 Councilman Pete White grew up in the old Capitol Hill in the 1940s and 1950s.
The community reached from the North Canadian — now Oklahoma — River to S 59 Street, between Bryant Avenue on the east and Pennsylvania or May Avenue on the west.
Churches included “Capitol Hill” in their names and teenagers attended Capitol Hill High School, he said.
White has proposed adding two wards to the city. That would increase the number of city council seats from eight to 10, plus the mayor, who is elected at-large.
Council members reviewed a proposed 10-ward map from 2011 and a new 12-ward map in Tuesday afternoon's discussion, but talk quickly turned to other concerns.
White says having more wards would reduce the number of residents each council member serves while increasing opportunities for minority candidates to win council seats.
Each council member currently represents an estimated 72,000 residents, an increase of about 31 percent since 1992. Including the mayor, there are seven white men, one black man and one white woman on the council.
Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis, who is black, said there's a risk that adding wards could dilute minority voting power. Potential minority candidates need support to build skills and connections necessary to win elections and govern, he said.
“That's the only way you're going to create true diversity,” Pettis said.
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid said more minority residents could be drawn into civic life through appointments to boards and commissions. Smaller wards also would enable a more diverse array of candidates to compete in elections, he said.
Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner said it seemed reasonable for the number of representatives on the council to grow with the population.
Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee tended the other way, saying he thinks the least government is best. “Right now, quite frankly, the eight are getting the job done,” he said.
White observed that ward boundaries ought to promote cohesive neighborhoods instead of dividing them the way Capitol Hill is divided.
In response, Mayor Mick Cornett suggested city staff draw up an eight-ward map with one ward centered on Capitol Hill. Council members agreed to give it a look.