By Sue Botos
Although Rocky River is one of the smaller Westshore communities, with a population of 20,735, it is the only one being divided by the recently approved congressional redistricting.
Currently, Congressman Dennis Kucinich represents the city, which is part of District 10. Due to Ohio’s loss of population, as recorded in the 2010 U.S. Census, the state will lose two districts, including the current District 10, after the November elections. Ohio’s number of congressional districts will shrink from 18 to 16.
This reconfiguration places the portion of Rocky River closest to the Lake Erie shore in the new District 9, a snakelike area that stretches from Toledo to western Cleveland. Kucinich is expected to face off against Toledo Democrat Marcy Kaptur for this seat. The rest of the city will lie in District 16, which will also see a battle between two incumbents: Republican Jim Renacci and Democrat Betty Sutton. At a recent appearance at the Westlake Recreation Center, Renacci introduced himself to area Republicans and predicted that the contest between him and Sutton would be “ugly.”
Renacci now represents the more rural Ashland, Medina, Stark and Wayne counties. More than half of the 16th District will be new territory for Renacci, with the largest population centered in Cuyahoga County.
Some Rocky River residents have expressed concern over the split of the city between the two districts, and that the person elected to the 16th District seat would not give attention to the northernmost area, which includes much of the city. But Mayor Pam Bobst is looking forward to the opportunity of working with two members of Congress.
“Mr. Renacci has already reached out, and I have met with him,” stated Bobst, adding that the freshman congressman is setting up appointments in all parts of the reconfigured district. She added that she would “not support anything seen as a division of the community.”
Bobst said she was not certain of the exact dividing line between the two districts, but estimated that it could be Detroit or Lake Road. Maps available online showed only divisions within counties, and did not go into great detail. (See www.peoplesdefender.com and www.drawthelinemidwest.org.) It appeared that Detroit Road could be the boundary.
Bobst told City Council at a recent meeting that Renacci understands the city’s current challenges. “I do hate to see the city divided, but we will now have two Congress members to go to bat for us,” she said.
Bobst added that she brought Renacci up to date on requests for funding work on Detroit and Lakeview roads through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She said she is hopeful he will be able to assist in securing these requests. She added that as far as capital projects go for the upcoming year, only those with outside funding either from grants, zero-interest loans or a combination would go forward.
It was announced at a prior meeting that the Ohio Supreme Court, with a decision to be reached by February, would hear a challenge to the redistricting. Bobst clarified that this challenge would only affect state offices and boundaries. The decision could have an impact on special elections, creating issues for any primaries. Bobst said she had confirmed with the county Board of Elections that there would be no special elections in June, and one for issues only in August. She added that the decision would be closely watched, as the city is considering placing a tax increase issue on the ballot.