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City Council moves ahead on redistricting

 

Jeff Clark

 

As Columbus officials wait patiently to hear from the U.S. Department of Justice on the status of its redistricting plan, the city council Tuesday officially adopted a resolution to establish polling and voting precincts during Tuesday's council meeting. 

 

"Chris Watson (of Bridge and Watson consulting firm in Oxford) came before us in the summer and presented the (redistricting) plan," City Attorney Jeff Turnage said. "We adopted this in late August and we need to have the final vote tonight." 

 

The council voted 4-2 to accept the ordinance. Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem voted against the measure. 

 

Karriem and Mickens have been critical of the city's plan, which has designed by Watson based on recommendations from the council. Under the city's proposal, Wards 1 and 2 would remain unchanged, as was suggested by Watson during the preliminary rounds of the redistricting discussion. Mickens, whose ward is overpopulated by 118 people according to 2010 census data, spoke against those changes, saying he wanted to get as close to mean average as possible. Ideally, each ward should have 3,940 residents, although there is no requirement that mandates such precise balance as long as the overall variance (number of residents in the most-populated ward compared to the number of residents in the least-populated ward) does not exceed 10 percent.  

 

Currently there is a 20-percent variance between the city's most populated ward, Ward 6, and its least populated, Ward 4. The new map would cut the variance to 9.5 percent.  

 

The council-approved map also has Ward 3 reduced by 350 people and a block on Hemlock Street would move to Ward 4. Ward 5 would absorb everything south of Waverly Road and one block of Sixth Street North to 11th Street North.  

 

Earlier in the summer, Karriem said the city's plan contains "unnecessary racial stacking" in Wards 1 and 4. A second plan, drawn by Golden Triangle Planning and Development and supported by Karriem, Mickens and a coalition of African American ministers, was also submitted to the DOJ. 

 

The alternate plan's biggest changes are in Ward 2, where the number of white residents decreases almost 10 percentage points from 41.8 percent to 33.0 percent and the number of black residents increases almost 10 points from 56.2 percent to 65.6 percent.  

 

Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a motion to provide an additional $100,000 for the Columbus Soccer Complex. The funds will match the funds allocated Monday by the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors. Mayor Robert Smith said the funds would come from the general obligation bonds. The remaining bond money must be spent by Nov. 29 according to chief financial officer Mike Bernsen.

 

 

 

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