Groundwork under way to redistrict Madison
Record Managing Editor
The groundwork to redistrict Madison's seven city council seats is being laid and several Madison residents say they'd like to make sure their city council representative doesn't change.
The first of two public hearings on the redistricting issue was held Monday night during the regular meeting of the city council. There, Madison resident Andrea Landin said in an area as progressive as Madison, it is vital that current district representation be maintained. Landin said she would hate to see any resident of Madison lose the relationship they've developed with their current city council representative.
Attending the public hearing was Mike Slaughter of the Mississippi-based urban consulting firm of Bridge and Slaughter. The firm has been hired by the city council to prepare the redistricting map and documentation required by state and federal law. The firm is developing a benchmark plan that will reflect what the city's districts are now after the 2000 Census.
Slaughter said the process of redistricting Madison would include seven steps – two of which have already occurred. Those seven steps include determining the need to redistrict the city, conducting a public hearing, preparing an actual plan and data, conducting a second public hearing, submitting the plan to the Department of Justice, and getting approval by the Department of Justice for the city to implement.
According to Madison Community Department Director Bob Atallo, included in the plan is the population of Madison as of today. Bridge and Slaughter is using a variety of maps showing the current city limits, a list of potential polling places, a map dividing the city into subdivisions, and a map of the existing districts to come up with a new district map.
"A benchmark plan is essentially a district map with a population and racial composition of each district, as it exists today," Atallo said. "Bridge and Slaughter is using the Census figures to actually redistrict the city and the benchmark plan will start with the Census figures of 2000 and the city limits as they are today."
City council member Cynthia McCollum asked Slaughter if his firm would look at a proposed redistricting plan offered by a group of local residents who formed a citizens group a few months ago with the intent to offer help and information about redistricting. The group has created a proposed redistricting map outlining seven new districts ranging in population from 3,875 to 4,513 people per district. Slaughter said the firm works under the city's discretion and if the city council wants him to look at the plan, he will do it.
Madison resident Greg Sanford said the process of redistricting the city is a "people game" and he'd like to see his current city council representative, Bob Wagner, remain his representative.
Charlie Brown and Bruce Wallace, both of Madison, encouraged the city council to hear all of the input from the community on a redistricting plan.
The final redistricting plan must be in place and approved by the Department of Justice by Aug. 2003 – six months prior to the municipal election in 2004.