Redistricting plan will now move forward
By By Mitch Freeman Madison County Record
The City of Madison is moving forward is council redistricting plan.
The City Council recently voted unanimously to authorize its consulting firm to move forward with the redistricting legal descriptions, despite concerns from local residents who claim the changes only benefit the current council members.
The decision came following considerable discussion between council members, Madison residents and Mike Slaughter, of the consulting firm Bridge &Slaughter. The discussion was focused on questions from residents who had drawn up their own redistricting map.
Bruce Tucker and other associates of the Concerned Madison Citizens group questioned Slaughter and the council about splitting census blocks and subdivisions to arrive at their proposed redistricting map.
Tucker also asked why the Slaughter plan appeared to be done in such a way to keep incumbent council members in their current district.
"We don't feel compelled to move council members out of their district when the public put them in there," Slaughter said. "This is the first time this has been an issue."
Slaughter said he had done about 50 redistricting plans and had never run into questions from the public about keeping council members in their districts. Several council members said they had not directed Slaughter to draw up a plan to keep them in the districts they were elected to represent. Slaughter concurred with council members' statements.
Marc Jacobson asked Slaughter if census blocks had been split in the process of drawing up their plan. Slaughter said several census blocks were split, but only one that is populated. The census block in the Bridgefield area was split in order to meet U.S. Justice Department guidelines regarding minority votes and equal distribution of total population among all districts.
In this case, a chunk of what is now part of district four would become part of district one, a minority district.
Another area of concern to Tucker was between Eastview and Old Madison Pike and west of Slaughter Road. Tucker offered suggestions to minimize the jagged look of proposed new district lines for that area, which also break apart subdivisions and neighborhoods.
Councilman David Buschmann said it doesn't matter if the map looks pretty and Slaughter said that they tried to square off district boundaries.
After discussion and explanation between all parties, the council determined that proposed new district lines had been done about as well as it could be. The council voted unanimously for Slaughter to move forward, but with the caveat that some tweaking could be done.
Slaughter pointed out that any change could affect several districts and that it was difficult to revise Madison's districts lines and stay within federal voter district guidelines.
He also said they would be happy to make changes as directed by the council.
It was established that all new annexations by the city would be included on the final map, but no new Madison population growth since the 2000 census was taken could be considered.
Slaughter said the council would have to determine a cutoff date at some point so the map could be frozen.