Column: Bloomington’s city council should allow future annexees to serve on redistricting advisory commission

All eight annexation ordinances that Bloomington’s city council will consider on Sept. 15 include a date on which their affected areas become a part of the city: Jan. 1, 2024.

To achieve the need population balance for city council districts, the results of the 2020 decennial census would already point to a need to redraw district boundaries. The assignment of an annexation area to one of the six city council districts as a part of an annexation ordinance is required by statute. Annexations would add to the pressures to redraw city council districts. (Map does not reflect the amendments made at the council’s Aug. 31, 2021 meeting)

That’s less than two months after the next city elections for mayor, city clerk and city councilmembers.

If the effective date were set for Jan. 1, 2023, annexees would be able to participate in the ordinary democratic process for choosing local representatives.

The fact that new residents of the city would have to wait until 2027 to participate in city elections is a source of fair complaint. Even some Bloomington city council members have admitted they feel bad about it.

While the council could vote to amend the annexation ordinances to change their effective dates to Jan. 1, 2023, the council has shown no visible signs that it’s inclined to do that.

If the city council does not want to make annexees city residents in time to give them the right to vote in the 2023 municipal elections, then the council should at least allow future annexees to have some influence on the upcoming process for re-drawing city council districts.

That would mean altering the city ordinance enacted late last year that establishes a citizens redistricting advisory commission (CRAC). Only city residents are allowed to serve on the nine-member group. Continue reading “Column: Bloomington’s city council should allow future annexees to serve on redistricting advisory commission”

Elections: Monroe County commissioners gearing up for redrawing of local boundaries after state-level districts are decided

At its Wednesday work session, Monroe County’s board of commissioners agreed on a resolution that will establish an advisory committee to guide its decisions on the redrawing of precinct and district boundaries for the county.

The upcoming work of potentially redrawing precinct boundaries—and possibly districts for county commissioners and county councilors—is prompted by the decennial census. That’s the same impetus for the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts, which is currently underway.

Results of the 2020 US Census were released in mid-August.

Redistricting work on the local level can’t be completed until the state-level districts are drawn. If an existing precinct is split by a state legislative or congressional district, it has to be redrawn so that it is not split.

Indiana’s state legislators are expected to settle on district boundaries in mid-to-late September.

Changes to precinct boundaries could have an impact on the redrawing of Bloomington city council districts in 2022, because precincts are the ordinary building blocks of council districts.

In the shorter term, work on the local level in the next several weeks will be done by the county government.

Oct. 15 is the deadline this year for a county to file a proposed re-precincting order with the Indiana Election Division (IED), according to a July 1 memo from the co-directors of the IED.

That means the county’s redistricting advisory committee will need to be established and its work completed in the next six weeks or so. Continue reading “Elections: Monroe County commissioners gearing up for redrawing of local boundaries after state-level districts are decided”

Bloomington’s 2020 census count: Plot (of dots) thickens for IU enrollments, dormitories

Ten days ago, when the news broke that Bloomington’s 2020 Census count had dropped, compared to the 2010 numbers, many residents reacted with disbelief.

The leading theory for the 1.5-percent drop, from 80,405 to 79,168, is based on the fact that Bloomington is home to Indiana University’s flagship campus.

The city experienced a pandemic-related mass exodus of students right around the time the census count was taking place, in late March and April. The university delivered remote-only instruction for the rest of the spring semester.

Thousands of students were undercounted in the 2020 Census, goes the theory, which would explain why the vintage 2019 estimates by the US Census Bureau put the population of Bloomington at 86,630, or about 7,000 more than the actual count done in 2020.

A theory based on student undercount is consistent with The B Square’s coarse-grained look at the precinct-by-precinct geographic distribution of population losses.

If students were undercounted, then that should be reflected in losses in on-campus and near-campus neighborhoods where many students live. The geographic distribution does show diminished numbers in areas on and near campus.

A different theory of that geographic distribution does not rely on the idea of a student undercount: If there were fewer students actually living in those campus areas, fewer students would be counted there.

That’s a theory that looks like it could have some support from two possible perspectives.

Continue reading “Bloomington’s 2020 census count: Plot (of dots) thickens for IU enrollments, dormitories”

Column: Connecting some annexation dots with Bloomington’s 2020 Census data

A week ago, the US Census released the data from its 2020 decennial count.

The image links to the original .jpg file which has a higher resolution that what is shown on the screen. Here’s a link to a .pdf with a vector graphic version of the map, which includes all of Monroe County: 2020 Census Monroe County dot map

Locally, the immediate focus was on Bloomington’s count of 79,168—which came in lower than had been estimated. It was lower even than the 2010 count of 80,405.

A fair amount of effort has already gone into trying to understand why the US Census Bureau’s actual count put Bloomington’s population lower than the same agency’s most recent estimates.

Not receiving as much attention has been the potential utility of the fresh census numbers for Bloomington’s current plans to add territory to the city.

The 2020 Census count outside Bloomington has not been subject to the same kind of skepticism as the area inside the city.

So the population of the proposed annexation areas, as measured by the 2020 Census, could factor into upcoming Bloomington city council deliberations, unimpeded by doubts about accuracy.

Of course, population density (at least 3 people per acre) is just one of the statutory considerations in Indiana’s annexation laws.

Another statutory consideration includes how much of the proposed annexation areas is subdivided or is parceled through separate ownerships into lots or parcels. A third factor mentioned in the state statute is whether the territory is zoned for commercial, business, or industrial uses.

Still, the fresh, fine-grained geographic detail of the census data released last Thursday seems like information that should be incorporated into the Bloomington city council’s deliberative process. Mid-September votes are currently contemplated on each of the eight proposed annexation areas. Continue reading “Column: Connecting some annexation dots with Bloomington’s 2020 Census data”

Census 2020 analysis: Lower numbers in Bloomington’s student neighborhoods point to possible undercounting

The 1.5-percent decrease in population reported for Bloomington by the US Census last week has generated local skepticism about the accuracy of the count.

The most recent estimates from the US Census had pegged the city’s population at around 86,000. But the 2020 numbers came in under 80,000, less even than the actual count in 2010.

The result was a big enough surprise that the city’s mayor, John Hamilton, issued a statement last Friday, the day after the results were released. The statement raises the possibility that the reported numbers are not accurate, because of an undercount of Indiana University students.

Hamilton’s statement points out: “[M]uch of the census data collection began the very week thousands of university students were directed to leave for the semester due to the COVID pandemic.”

If an undercount of university students contributed to Bloomington’s lower numbers, the undercount would likely be detectable in the geographic distribution of population losses in Bloomington, as counted by the US Census.

Based on a B Square plot of precinct population counts in 2020 compared to 2010, the idea that college students were undercounted has some statistical support.

It was predominantly areas on and near the Indiana University campus that showed lower counts in 2020 compared to 2010.

Continue reading “Census 2020 analysis: Lower numbers in Bloomington’s student neighborhoods point to possible undercounting”

US Census 2020: Bloomington population down 1.5%, Monroe County up 1.3%, Indiana up 4.7%

Bloomington has lost population since 2010. That’s based on fresh 2020 numbers released by the US Census Bureau around 1 p.m. on Thursday.

In 2020, Bloomington’s census was 79,168, which is 1,237 fewer than the 80,405 Bloomington residents who were counted ten years ago. That’s a 1.5-percent loss in population over the last decade.

Based on initial inquiries by The B Square to local experts, the possibility that Bloomington’s numbers reflect an undercount of Indiana University students, because of the pandemic, is a leading theory for Bloomington’s drop.

For Monroe County overall, Thursday’s news was not quite as bleak. The number of Monroe County residents counted by the US Census in 2020 was 139,718, or about 1.3 percent more than the 137,974 who were counted in 2010.

Bloomington and Monroe County’s trends fall outside the growth of the Indianapolis metro area. Overall, Indiana showed a roughly 4.7 percent growth in population over the last ten years.

Indiana’s total population in 2020 was measured at 6,785,528, compared to 6,483,802 in 2010. Continue reading “US Census 2020: Bloomington population down 1.5%, Monroe County up 1.3%, Indiana up 4.7%”