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Community organizations host redistricting meeting

Event provides opportunity for comment on proposed council ward lines

POSTED: August 5, 2011 11:34 p.m.

Community members will get an extra opportunity Monday to look over and comment on proposed City Council district lines.

"A lot of people are not familiar with redistricting, the language of it, the process of it, the importance of it," said the Rev. Rose Johnson-Mackey, who is chairwoman of Region 1 of the Northeast Georgia Black Leadership Council-Gainesville. "Having knowledge of this process is essential."

The meeting, hosted by the council and the Newtown Florist Club, is set for 6 p.m. at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Mill Street in Gainesville. Council members Ruth Bruner, Myrtle Figueras, Bob Hamrick and George Wangemann have agreed to attend. City Clerk Denise Jordan will lead a presentation of the proposed redistricting map.

Wards 3, 4 and 5 have sizable minority populations, and since the proposed map was drawn, council members and school board members have been watching the redistricting lines and population shifts within their districts.

The proposed map dramatically shrinks Ward 4, which experienced a population boom over the last decade.

It also shifts the city's Hispanic population into Wards 3, 4 and 5, while the black population in Ward 3 would decrease.

The proposed map must be approved in preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the Voting Rights Act to make sure the lines don't weaken the strength of minority votes.

"Ward 3 is where the concentration of blacks in Gainesville have always lived," said Figueras, who represents the ward. "They wanted to be sure that ward is kept as much intact as possible."

In 2006, the act was amended to include language minorities like Hispanics.

The maps also affect school board members, who are elected by district, while City Council members are elected by the city as a whole.

Even though council members are elected at large, it's still important each ward supports its council member, and that each council member represents his or her ward, Johnson-Mackey said.

"They want the support from the people where they live," she said.

She added the maps will be in place for the next decade, and voting might change. If it does, those likes make a difference.

"It's still important to pay attention to how these districts are drawn," she said.

The goal is to have one map for both the school board and City Council, but that option may not be in the cards.

On Thursday school board members met with Linda Meggers, formerly of the Georgia General Assembly's Reapportionment Office, and council members to consider adjusting lines on the proposed map.

Meggers also discussed going back to the current map and changing lines to suit the needs of the school board members' constituents.

The school board wanted to rework the current map.

The City Council and school board could have different district maps but Meggers advised them to try to use the same map.

For more information, you can contact Johnson-Mackey at 678-698-4934 or the Newtown Florist Club at 770-718-1343.



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