By Russell Hood The Webster Progress-Times
The Board of Aldermen has revised the city of Eupora’s proposed redistricting plan.
The city must redistrict because of the 2010 U.S. Census results. Leading up the latest development in the redistricting process, the city conducted a public hearing on April 2.
GIS Manager/Senior Analyst Toby Sanford and assistant Dave Alexander of the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, which is preparing and filing the redistricting plan and related work with the Justice Department, were present.
Sanford had presented redistricting information to the full board on March 5 based on discussion the previous week at a work session with Mayor Tommy Lott and three aldermen: Dan Burchfield (at large), Hank Flowers (Ward 4) and Vickey Patterson (Ward 1).
Previous Actions At the hearing, Sanford discussed in detail how the lines were configured and how the Justice Department determines ideal numbers. In response to one question, he said the lines were drawn as to make the wards as equal and contiguous as possible. Sanford also explained the process of filing with the Justice Department and that the process may take 60 to 180 days.
In a meeting afterwards, aldermen voted to proceed with “Eupora Plan 1” as presented, including the legal description. The minutes note that the motion to do so was made “in that there were few questions and no negative comments at the public hearing.”
On April 13, the board adopted a letter of support and a list of minority representation to be sent to the Justice Department supporting the then-proposed redistricting plan. The minority representatives are Donna Griffin, Robert C. Mays, Annie L. Marshall, Mary L. Shaw, Lamar Dumas, Glenda B. Mays, George A. Draine, Flowers and Patterson.
According to minutes of the city board’s May 7 meeting note, “The mayor and aldermen stated they had not been contacted by any citizens with questions or comments outside the public hearing concerning the redistricting plan.” The board then voted to reaffirm that the city, having heard no opposition or been presented with any alternative plans, proceed with the redistricting plan as approved at the April board meeting.
‘Plan 2’ Sanford and Alexander were back before the board on Aug. 6 with a revised redistricting plan — “Eupora Plan 2.”
Sanford said the only change from the first plan was moving a high- minority block from Ward 2 to Ward 1. The relocated section includes Early Grove Apartments at 673 Veterans Memorial Blvd., which is on the east side of Highway 9 North.
“This was a good improvement, a good change,” he said before the board voted unanimously to rescind Plan 1 and adopt Plan 2.
Sanford nor anyone else at the meeting brought up what led to the revision. However, a letter dated Aug. 6 that the city is submitting to the Justice Department (signed by the mayor and all aldermen) with the second adopted plan states in part: “Our population is approximately 40 percent African-American, so we agreed in the beginning to have two wards that were majority African-American.
“Through public hearings and working with Southern Echo (a statewide minority advocate firm specializing in redistricting) we were able to achieve this goal simply and quickly. We knew that Ward 1 (our historical black district) had been losing population at a higher rate than any other section of our city, while Ward 2 showed the only gains in population.”
With this in mind, the letter goes on to explain, the city board accepted lines that would make Ward 1 the larger of the two aforementioned wards in terms of population and Ward 2 the smaller of the two, anticipating that this 30-year trend would continue.
The letter also notes that “not a single resident of the city of Eupora is in opposition.”
Demographics GTPDD demographics show these total populations for each ward, followed by the percentage black voting age population for each, as proposed in Plan 2: • Ward 1: 576, 59.4 percent BVAP. • Ward 2: 553, 10.7 percent BVAP. • Ward 3: 581, 19.1 percent, BVAP. • Ward 4: 570, 57.8 percent, BVAP.