Residents snub redistricting meeting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 4, 2004

The City of Demopolis no-shows again.

A total of eight people showed up at the Civic Center on Wednesday for the last of three public meetings on the Demopolis City Council’s proposed redistricting plan. That included the three council members in attendance.

The total population of Demopolis is around 8,000 residents, but for the three public meetings a total of 45 people attended. Many of the same people came to every meeting.

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City Attorney Rick Manley directed Wednesday’s meeting. He also talked briefly about a map of the proposed plan and how it will affect the city.

Only 12 people showed up for the first meeting, held at U.S. Jones Gym. At that meeting Barrown Lankster asked why there was a need to change the districts. Manley said that the city needed to add the land it annexed back in 1994.

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

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 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 conducted a population count in specific areas. Population and racial makeup must balance in the districts.

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

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.