Redistricting Lowdown: City’s proposal fails to draw crowd

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Demopolis City Council was ready, but the public no-showed.

The first public meeting to discuss the redistricting of Demopolis was held at U.S. Jones Gym at 5:30 Wednesday, but only 12 people showed up.

The only people that showed up were council members and a few concerned citizens. Barrown Lankster asked why there was a need to change the districts. City Attorney Rick Manley said that the city needed to add the land it annexed back in 1994.

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Mitchell Congress asked how many new people have the city has added since the last redistricting. Manley answered around 300. When Congress asked what percentage of that 300 was white or black, Manley said it was about 60 percent white and 40 percent black.

A second public meeting is scheduled today at 5:30 p.m. at the Westside Elementary School cafeteria.

Congress complained that the meetings haven’t been properly advertised and that he hoped the council would add another meeting. He also said that he hoped the plan doesn’t go through till 2008.

“I hope it is put off until the election of 2008, so we can really look at the numbers,” Congress said.

The council agreed on the redistricting plan during a meeting Tuesday morning. The approved map for the first time includes the French Creek and Bell Grayson Road areas.

The council has been working on the map since the beginning of January. Councilman Thomas Moore, the most vocal council member during the process, said he was happy with the new map and that it represents his district well.

“I’m happy with the changes that were made to my district,” Moore said.

Dr. William Stewart, a political expert and University of Alabama professor emeritus of political science, was hired to help with the new map. He previously worked with the council on the 1992 district map. The council with the advice of Stewart and Manley decided to make more changes to the map than originally planned.

Stewart was brought in because of his expertise in dividing specific population blocks. He recently made a count of population in specific areas. Population and racial makeup must balance in the district map.

Stewart gave the data to Craig Remington, cartographic laboratory director with the University of Alabama Department of Geography, who prepared the map the council approved Tuesday.

The city must have a map approved by the U.S. Justice Department by July 1, the first day for qualifying for the Aug. 24 municipal elections.