Wednesday, October 24, 2001

District changes benefit suburbs

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fast-growing suburbs are gaining influence in Columbus.

        New boundaries drawn for Ohio House and Senate districts reflect population jumps in Butler, Warren and Clermont counties and mean additional seats and some changes in whom lawmakers represent.

        The gains are expected to translate into greater influence on capital projects, including roads, as well as funding for education.

        Butler County gains a full House seat in the redistricting, which moves thousands of voters from one district to another. The changes take effect for next year's May primary and November elections.

        Rep. Greg Jolivette said that with Butler County having three full House seats and a full Senate seat as of next year, legislators can combine efforts on Butler projects that need state funding.

        “If we're all on the same page, we're going to have a very strong voice,” he said.

        Under the plan:

        • Butler jumps from two full House seats to three and from a partial to a full Senate seat.

        • Warren County gains half of a House seat from Hamilton County, which had 2.4 percent population decline from 1990 to 2000.

        • Clermont County sees boundary shifts, but gains no seats.

        • Hamilton County's only loss is the half of a House seat that goes to Warren County. There will be a lot of boundary shifts in House and Senate districts that include Cincinnati, but Cincinnati won't gain or lose any seats.

        From 1990 to 2000, Butler County gained more than 41,000 residents, a 14.2 percent increase. Ohio's House and Senate district boundary lines are redrawn every 10 years to reflect the changes in population between each U.S. Census.

        Rep. Shawn Webster's 60th House District now includes parts of Butler and Preble counties. In 2003, his new district will include only Butler County communities.

        The district will lose Preble County, Millville and Ross Township and will gain Fairfield Township and the northern portion of Middletown. This district includes Trenton, Oxford and other western Butler County communities.

        “I'll be completely Butler County,” said Mr. Webster, a Millville Republican. “It will allow me to focus strictly on Butler County issues.”

        Rep. Jolivette's 59th House District will lose Fairfield Township and gain Millville and Ross Township. The Hamilton Republican's district includes Hamilton and Fairfield.

        The 58th House District of Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester Township, will lose the northern part of Middletown. His district will retain fast-growing West Chester and Liberty townships, Lemon Township, Monroe and a portion of Sharonville that's in West Chester.

        Butler and Preble counties comprise the 4th Senate District of Scott Nein, R-Middletown, but under the new district boundaries, he will represent only Butler County.

        The redistricting plan also will make Warren County a little more influential in the General Assembly.

        Rep. Tom Raga, R-Deerfield Township, now represents all of Warren County. But under the plan, his territory will shrink to the county's more populous western half.

        Eastern Warren will be folded into the district of Rep. Michelle Schneider, R-Madeira, who represents northeastern Hamilton County.

        “Columbus clout-wise, it's another person looking out for our interests,” Mr. Raga said.

        He said it makes sense to separate Warren's fast-growing area in the I-75 corridor from the more rural part of the county.

        Warren County's population increased by 44,474 from 1990 to 2000, a 38 percent jump.

        On the Senate side, Warren County, which is now represented by Sen. Richard Finan, R-Evendale, would share a senator with eastern Hamilton County. The seat would encompass the House districts of Mr. Raga, Ms. Schneider and Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout.

        Warren would make up about 40 percent of the Senate district's population, Mr. Raga said.

        Clermont County's population grew by 27,790 from 1990 to 2000, an 18.5 percent increase. Its greatest growth occurred in the western part of the county.

        That's why Rep. Jean Schmidt's 71st District will shrink in geographical size.

        Her district, which includes the county's fastest-growing areas, will lose Pierce and Stonelick townships to Rep. Tom Niehaus' 72nd District. Her district includes Union, Miami, Batavia and Goshen townships.

        “I hate losing Pierce and Stonelick townships,” said Ms. Schmidt, a Miami Township Republican. “But I'll continue to work with those residents during the next year.”

        Besides gaining Pierce and Stonelick, the district of Mr. Niehaus, a New Richmond Republican, will pick up seven townships in Adams County.

        It will lose Clinton County, but continue to include Ohio, Monroe, Washington, Franklin Tate, Jackson, Wayne townships and Brown County. Ohio Sen. Doug White's 14th District will lose Clinton, Fayette, Highland and Pike counties and pick up Scioto County and part of Lawrence County. The Manchester Republican's district will continue to include Clermont County, its largest county, and Brown and Adams counties.

        Cindi Andrews of the Enquirer contributed to this report.


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