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Gainesville ward maps still being discussed
Council backs away from adopting same boundaries as school board
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The discussion over wards for Gainesville’s voting districts will go on through October.

The Gainesville City Council was set to give final approval Tuesday to a map of ward boundaries that mirrored the boundaries the Gainesville Board of Education had endorsed for its representative districts.

A divided council had given the map, dubbed “Plan 3,” initial approval on Sept. 6, with those voting in favor of it saying they did so to keep districts the same for both the school board and the City Council.

But after Councilman George Wangemann changed his vote Tuesday, the council backed away from the school board’s recommendation.

Wangemann’s Sept. 6 support for “Plan 3” had been the swing vote in the map’s initial passage. Originally, he had supported a map drawn by city staff, “Plan 2RE.”

“I have had a change of heart once again,” Wangemann said Tuesday.

In a 3-2 vote minutes later, the council reverted back to its original plan to adopt a map its attorney had endorsed.

The map now on the table for consideration, “Plan 2RE,” will receive two public hearings at City Council meetings in October.

Wangemann, who just two weeks ago voted with Mayor Ruth Bruner and Councilman Bob Hamrick in favor of the school board-endorsed map, said Tuesday he’d rather support a map that better illustrated the “one man, one vote” mandate of the Voting Rights Act.

Attorney Drew Whalen, hired by the city as counsel on reapportionment issues, has said that “Plan 2RE” more evenly distributes residents across the city’s five wards.

The ideal population for each ward is 6,761. “Plan 3” deviates from that number by as much as 4.66 percent.

Wangemann voted alongside Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras, who moved Tuesday to rescind the council’s Sept. 6 decision, which she and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan had opposed.

Figueras said the council should move instead to approve “Plan 2RE.” Her motion was quickly seconded by Dunagan.

Much of Figueras’ opposition to “Plan 3” is due to the fact that residents who participated in public hearings on citywide redistricting never saw the map in those hearings.

“Plan 3,” drawn for the school board by Linda Meggers, a former employee of the Georgia General Assembly’s reapportionment office, didn’t surface until mid-August. By that time, residents had attended several public hearings on other options.

“We voted on a map (Sept. 6) they had not even seen in its entirety,” said Figueras.

Dunagan previously has stated his displeasure with the city’s redistricting process being “dictated” by the school board. The group, he said, had not “spent one penny on this deal.”

Wangemann’s Sept. 6 decision had hinged on the school board’s refusal to adopt “Plan 2RE.” He said then that voting for “Plan 3” seemed to be a “total community solution.”

But Tuesday, when Wangemann returned to the side of Figueras and Dunagan, Dunagan urged the school board to adopt

“Plan 2RE” to save taxpayers the expense and confusion of mismatched wards for the council and the school board. Bruner and Hamrick maintained their opposition to “Plan 2RE.”

Reached late Tuesday, Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said she could not comment on the council’s change of heart.

“I don’t know any of the rationale behind it and I didn’t know they were still considering that map,” Dyer said.

Dyer said the board will need to discuss what route to take next.

“We’re still committed to having one map,” Dyer said.

Staff writer Dallas Duncan contributed to this report