City Council Rejects Alternate Redistricting Plan By Black Leaders

Okays Plan With 3 Majority-Minority Districts, 1 Swing District

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The City Council on Tuesday night rejected a last-minute redistricting plan by black leaders and instead unanimously approved one that was tentatively agreed on last week.

Joe Rowe, NAACP leader, said the new plan would give four majority-minority districts - Districts 5, 7, 8 and 9.

He said the council's plan only included three majority-minority districts.

Mr. Rowe said the council plan may run afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act, saying it represents "retrogression" on minority representation.

Councilman Manny Rico hit the new plan, saying, "You talk about gerrymandering. To me it doesn't make sense to make it like that."

He said it would have Councilman Andrae McGary part of a district he had never represented before.

Councilman Rico said redistricting "should be a race-neutral process."

He said, "It's not fair to the people we have worked with for years."

Councilman Rico also said white people had made many overtures to help blacks. He said, "This race thing is getting out of hand, and I resent it."

Councilman Russell Gilbert disagreed, saying, "Racism is still there. We have not arrived."

Councilman Jack Benson said he was "real disappointed in what you've thrown before us. You've just gutted my district."

Councilwoman Carol Berz said, "This would take the heart out of a project that has been going on for a long time. The assumption here is that white people think alike and black people think alike - and that's an insult."

She said the new plan was "very gerrymandered."

Councilman Peter Murphy said Mr. Rowe told him earlier he wanted to keep majority-minority districts of at least 60 percent black voting age population. He said the new plan drops below that.

Mr. Rowe said redistricting should be about "building for the future, not holding onto the past."

City Attorney Mike McMahan said the council's plan is similar to one in 1990 when he said there were also three majority-minority districts and a swing district.

Absent from the meeting - on a city visit to Germany - were council members Pam Ladd and Andrae McGary.

Others attending the meeting included Rep. Tommie Brown and former school board member Sherman Matthews.

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