The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 19, 2021 1:00 am

Teacher wins $3,000 in map contest

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne resident Jorge Fernandez last week prevailed in a public mapping competition – submitting the winning boundaries for the 100 House districts.

The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission conducted the contest, and Fernandez won $3,000.

Commission members as of Friday had not unveiled the winners of the congressional and state Senate map.

Fernandez, a substitute teacher who has run for the legislature several times, said his map was drawn blind to incumbents and with a goal of a 1% population deviation.

“I tried to keep counties together as much as possible; since counties tend to be more rectangular than circular, this probably hurt the political compactness scores, but I think county lines are important dividing lines and thus it makes sense to sacrifice compactness as necessary in order to keep county lines intact,” he said.

He also tried to keep cities and towns together as well as communities with cultural ties together.

Marilyn Moran-Townsend, a member of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, complimented Fernandez for his thoughtful approach to balancing communities of interest, the voices of minority populations, and traditional geographical boundaries to support representative government.

“I believe in the process of soliciting maps from Indiana citizens for submission to the legislature and I am hopeful that this map will be seriously considered and adopted by our state representatives,” she said.

Councilman defends clerk

A Fort Wayne city councilman defended the city clerk after a local food truck owner directed comments toward her.

Eddie Ribel, who says he running for mayor, first aimed his criticism at Republican City Clerk Lana Keesling when he spoke during Tuesday's council meeting.

“I don't know if I want to thank Lana for sticking her neck out,” he said. “You're not for the people. You're running for what, treasurer now? You're not for the people.”

Ribel also referenced his mayoral campaign during his public comments.

“Most of the security people in this building know this is going to be my house in a couple of years,” he said.

Keesling recently announced her campaign for state treasurer. She did not look at or acknowledge Ribel.

Democratic Councilman Geoff Paddock was quick to defend Keesling in his closing comments.

“I'd like to start out by saying that I don't care for anyone who takes potshots at any of us, particularly our distinguished city clerk. You are for the people, Lana,” Paddock said. “And I appreciate you, as I do all of (council) as good public servants.”

All about masks

Just because the Fort Wayne Community Schools board hasn't directly voted on masks doesn't mean it hasn't voted on masks and other COVID-19 protocols.

Julie Hollingsworth explained during Monday's meeting the seven-member board has, in fact, voted twice on the issue.

First, the board authorized the superintendent to make such decisions, giving the district the ability to make changes when needed.

“We decided that we are not medical experts,” said Hollingsworth, who was board president when the pandemic began. “We are not full-time employees. We don't have time to be in touch daily with (not only our) in-house health experts but countywide and statewide health experts.”

The board also voted when it selected Mark Daniel as superintendent in 2020, Hollingsworth said.

“We trust our superintendent,” she said. “We trust our staff, and we support their decisions.”

FWCS was the only Allen County district that began the academic year with a mask mandate.

Devan Filchak and Ashley Sloboda of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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