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State and local NAACP leaders held a press conference at Home Place Park in Madison to discuss their opposition to the city's proposed city manager system and to encourage citizens to vote no in the May 9 special election.

State and local NAACP declares opposition to city manager proposal

By Maria Rakoczy (maria@themadisonrecord.com)

MADISON – County and state leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gathered on Wednesday morning at the Home Place Park amphitheater in downtown Madison for a press conference to declare their opposition to the city manager proposal.

The proposal is going to a public vote on Tuesday, May 9 and should it pass, would instate a city council-appointed city manager and reduce the council from its current seven district representatives to six with the mayor receiving a seventh vote as president of the council. The new system would require redistricting and a consolidation of the current seven districts into six.

Herein lies the NAACP’s concerns over the change in government.

“The NAACP is concerned about that because when you go from seven to six, or any number, when you reduce the number, we think that decreases the opportunity for minorities, African Americans, to have their voices heard. So, we are here to support the citizens for their right to vote and to have their voices heard,” Benard Simelton, President of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, explained.

With the state of Alabama recently on the verge of losing a congressional seat at the national level, Simelton feels strongly that citizens of Alabama should do all they can to preserve representation at the local level. Simelton and others see the reduction of districts in the city of Madison pairing directly with a reduction of representation for the growing population of Madison and would especially diminish the voices and voting power of minorities in the city.

Hanu Karlapalem, a former candidate for mayor in 2016 and Vice-President of the Limestone County Branch NAACP, predicted that “Modest and low-income areas are going to be impacted most adversely by eliminating one council district, by installing a zero-accountability council-city manager form of government, and by giving unchecked power to an unelected city manager.”

Karlapalem additionally described the manager-council system as a “blatant disregard for democracy.”

Will Woodruff, also of the Limestone County NAACP chapter, emphasized, “You’re not just gaining a manager, but you’re losing a district to vote in.”

He further spoke for the citizens of District 4, which lies partially in Limestone County, who would be affected by the change, “The citizens there would be [not represented] if we go to this council-manager system. So, we’re in support of the citizens that say ‘No’ to this city manager. We stand with them because a great deal of the population of that district of Madison city would be disenfranchised if the city goes to this manager system.”

Dr. Randy Kelley of the Madison County NAACP chapter and chair of the Alabama Democratic Party looked beyond the present to the complications the new system could create for representation for future generations, “I’m not just concerned about them losing a representative that they elected, but I’m also concerned about the repercussions about their future representation, and I think we need to consider all of these things before we change governments.”

Simelton issued a call to action for the residents of Madison, “The NAACP is, first of all, encouraging people to come out on Tuesday and to come out to support their form of government that they have in the city of Madison.”

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