Annexation appeal ‘muddies’ redistricting

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Due to borderline population totals, Brookhaven officials aretrying to navigate through a “gray area” regarding annexation andthe make up of the board of aldermen. Objectors’ plans to appealthe city’s expansion represent another shade of gray and couldfurther cloud the issue.

With a 2000 Census population of 9,861, the Brookhaven Board ofAldermen is to be composed of five members because the city’spopulation is under 10,000. The approved annexation would boost thecity’s population to 12,964, which would allow continuance of aseven-member board.

An appeal would halt indefinitely implementation of the city’sannexation efforts, which could impact next year’s regularelections for aldermen by forcing ward lines to be redrawn for fivemembers. Some observers believe the appeal is at best a long shot,but objectors are not deterred.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Brookhaven officials are seeking state and federal guidanceregarding the city’s redistricting rights and obligations in theevent of an appeal. Because of the preliminary annexation approvaland its impact on population, city officials are hoping only tohave to redraw ward lines for a seven-member board.

Annexation consultants are awaiting word from the city onwhether to proceed with five-member or seven-member ward lineplans. A five-member board would have four ward representatives andone at-large member while a seven-member board would have aldermenfrom six wards and an at-large office holder.

An appeal would present the prospect of the city having toredistrict ward lines at least twice during the next four years,once down to five members for next year’s elections and again oncethe annexation appeal is resolved.

Every redistricting represents time and expense to current andpotentially future city residents.

Whether the city keeps two members of the board of aldermenreally is not the issue here. Making sure residents have a voice inchoosing their representation on the city board is.

In the event their appeal is unsuccessful, newly-annexedresidents face the possibility of not having a say in selectingtheir alderman until the next regular city elections in 2009. Aredistricting plan for a seven-member board would take into accountthe larger city.

However, while being taxed for city services, people in theapproved annexation area will not have a chance to elect arepresentative of their choice until the city could hold newelections. That, because of an appeal, truly would be “taxationwithout representation.”