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Citizens voice redistricting concerns

Annexation Consultant Mike Slaughter was in town Tuesday nightto answer the public’s questions about the proposed redistrictingof wards.

After the meeting, Slaughter said it was one of the easiestredistricting meetings he’d attended. There was a small group ofcitizens present, each of whom asked a few questions and voicedminor concerns about the new map.

Slaughter explained that several different criteria had goneinto the redistricting process, including keeping the racialintegrity of an area intact and keeping the smallest and largestwards within a 10 percent deviation.

“Most of the change was adding land area and trying to balancethe population,” he said. “Depending on the community’s input andthe wishes of the board, you can adopt these plans or makeadditional modifications.”

Slaughter explained again that once the city and state has giventheir approval, the Department of Justice has the final say in theredistricting.

He also told the group that in the redistricting process, theward lines must be clear to the naked eye as well as on a map.

“We try to use visible lines of demarcation, such as streets,creeks, ditches, railroads, etc.,” Slaughter said.

In response to a question by a member of the crowd, he assuredthe group that the new ward lines have no impact on the countysupervisors or anything else on the county level.

“You can still vote in the county elections, but now you canalso vote in the city elections,” he told a newly annexedcitizen.

In addition, he said, the voting precincts and school districtsremain unchanged.

One citizen, newly annexed into Ward Three, voiced his issueswith being annexed into a ward where the white voting population isonly 27.8 percent, asking if the map as it stands now will actuallybe approved.

“I don’t foresee a need to, but what if I wanted to replace(Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson)?” he asked. “My vote’s notgoing to count.”

City Attorney Joe Fernald explained that under the currentguidelines that must be followed for redistricting, the plan wasdone correctly and would more than likely be approved by theDepartment of Justice.

Another local landowner asked about the land adjacent to hisrecently purchased property, stating that he had heard his neighborwas possibly looking into selling land to put in a mobile homepark.

Slaughter explained that the man’s property was now a bit saferbecause once zoning is established there will be more laws aboutwhat kind of developments can be put in different areas.

“That property had no zoning at all when it was in the county,and now the city is in the process of planning and zoning, so therewill be a heightened level of protection on your property,”Slaughter said.

The annexation specialist told the board that the next step inthe journey is the preparation of the ordinance in which theydefine by legal description every boundary. It must then be broughtbefore the board for adoption, then submitted to the Department ofJustice with the annexation for approval.

The process should take 60 days upon the DOJ’s reception of theplan, but that time period could be reset if further information isrequested.

“We try to make a thorough submission to avoid that,” he said.”But every city is different. You just never know.”