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Covington City Commission Calls on Lawmakers to Reconsider New House Districts

The Covington city commission expressed its concern about redistricting on Tuesday night through the unanimous adoption of a resolution calling on lawmakers to reconsider the current proposal.

That proposal, now being considered in the newly convened Kentucky General Assembly, was released late last week and shows significant disruption to Northern Kentucky's largest city's representation in Frankfort.

Following the decennial federal census, state legislatures or commissions across the country redraw state legislative and congressional boundaries to reflect population shifts and changes.

SEE PREVIOUSLY: Proposed maps would bring changes to Northern Kentucky representation in the Statehouse

There are one hundred seats in the Kentucky House of Representatives and the 65th District, represented by Covington Democrat Buddy Wheatley, encompasses the northern part of the city as well as some neighboring cities to the west like Ludlow, Bromley, and Park Hills.

But in the proposed maps released last Friday, Wheatley's district shifts further west to include more suburban cities like Edgewood and Crestview Hills. Eastern neighborhoods in Covington are then pushed into Taylor Mill Republican Representative Kim Moser's 64th District, while the northern tip of Covington, as well as Ludlow, are pushed into Ft. Mitchell Republican Kim Banta's 63rd District.

The Kentucky House is dominated by Republicans who hold a super-majority of 75 seats. Democrats hold the other 25.

Mayor Joe Meyer said Tuesday that Covington not having a resident in the General Assembly, should Wheatley lose reelection in a more Republican district, would mark the first time that that has happened since the state's founding in 1792.

"This really drives home the point, Covington's perspective on so many issues is different than the rest of Northern Kentucky," Meyer said. He said that code enforcement "is a big deal here in Covington" and "not so important in Edgewood or Ft. Wright." The mayor also cited affordable housing, economic development, building codes, social services, race and equity concerns, are issues dealt with differently in Covington that elsewhere around the region.

"These are values we don't seem to share with the rest of Northern Kentucky," Meyer said. "We need to be in a position to argue those perspectives, to put these ideas on the table, and at least give us a chance for our voices to be heard."

Meyer also cited the work of Wheatley's predecessor, Democrat Arnold Simpson, who retired ahead of the 2018 election, particularly on the Brent Spence Bridge, the suggestion that the addition of a companion bridge to the I-71/75 span would require tolls for funding it, and Simpson's work to ban tolls on the project.

"To cut our community out of the forum where we can advance our ideas and values is a disservice to all of us," Meyer said. "And this is an area that prides itself on regionalism - to make sure that the region works for everyone means that all parts of the region need to have a voice and a place at the table when decisions are made."

The resolution calls on the House and the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus to seek changes to the proposed 65th District.

"We hope that the rest of Northern Kentucky will stand up and reject that view and say Covington's voices are relevant and help us restore representation to the people who live in Covington in the General Assembly," said Meyer, who also once represented the city in the State House and Senate.

Following the 2010 census, the Covington city commission also expressed concerns about redistricting of the 65th when Simpson still held the seat. At that time, though, Democrats still had control of the legislature's lower chamber and were in charge of drawing the maps. A proposal at that time would have pushed the 67th District across the Licking River and into part of northern Covington.

Democrat Dennis Keene represented the 67th at that time, a district made up of Campbell County's urban cities, communities along the Licking, and Highland Heights.

In 2011, The River City News reported that the city commission planned to adopt a resolution opposing any ceding of Covington precincts to Keene's district.

While Moser already represents central and southern Covington, her district would grow and with the addition of Banta, the current proposal would place three state representatives in Kentucky's fifth-largest city. 

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Covington City Hall (RCN file)