Newnan redistricting meetings begin Monday
By JOHN A. WINTERS
Newnan residents will get several opportunities to see and discuss proposed new voting district maps during public hearings scheduled during the next few days.
Depending on which map ends up being approved, many residents could not only be in a new district, but have a new council member representing them on the Newnan City Council.
“This is an excellent opportunity to come and discuss what may be changing in your voting districts. We would love to gather valuable input from the neighborhood residents and these meetings are a great way for citizens to express their thoughts to the City,” said Cleatus Phillips, Newnan city manager.
There are three proposals under consideration, although the third one, known as the “Butterfly” map because of its shape, is not expected to pass Department of Justice approval because it would dilute minority voting strength. That option was added at the requests of city councilmen Bob Coggin and George Alexander. It is the only proposal that would not have current council members running against each other.
The chosen proposal will still need to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly, which is considered routine. However, it also will have to pass the federal Justice Department to ensure minority representation.
The city has the option of bypassing Justice, but that would mean going to federal court and having a judge draw the lines, essentially removing the city’s ability to have a say in its new voting makeup.
As of now, council districts are made up of four wards — A, B, C, D, and two superwards — E, made up of A and B wards, and F, made up of C and D wards.
About 30 to 35 percent of the city is minority and those residents primarily reside in wards C, D and F, according to Linda Meggers, former director of the state Legislative Redistricting Office and hired as a consultant by the city.
“We can’t diminish minority voting rights,” Meggers said while presenting her proposals to council at a recent meeting. “When we look at redistricting, we have to factor that in.”
One proposal, known as 6D, would create six separate wards with one council member elected from each district. The mayor would be elected citywide. District 6 would be about 55 percent minority voting population, and District 5 would be about 48 percent minority voting population. The other four districts would be predominantly white.
Under that proposal, no sitting council member currently represents what would be District 1. Council members Coggin and Alexander would be in the same district — District 5.
Both said they don’t want to run against each other, and favor the “Butterfly” option. That option would keep the current council election makeup, although lines would be redrawn, of four wards and two superwards. Under that option, none of the current council members would have to run against each other. In that scenario, voters vote for one councilman from their ward and one councilman from their superward.
But Meggers said she doubted the “Butterfly Option” would pass Justice approval because it would dilute minority population in such a way that only one district would be a majority, minority district.
“That one is more problematic than the other options,” she said when she presented the maps to council a couple of weeks ago.
The second option, known as 3D, would split the city into three larger districts. Voters would vote for two council members from their district. The mayor would continue to be elected on a citywide vote. Under that scenario, District 3 would have a minority voting population of about 52 percent. The other two would be predominantly white.
Hicks would be the only sitting council member for the proposed District. 1. Coggins, Alexander and Cynthia Jenkins would all be in District 3.
Jenkins has served on council since 2004, representing the current Ward C, and has served as mayor pro tem since 2006. Coggin has served since 2008 in Ward D. Alexander joined council in 2004 and represents the current Superward F, made up of wards C and D.
Copies of the three maps currently are available in the lobby at City Hall on LaGrange Street. Anyone with questions can contact Phillips at 770-254-2358 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
The four upcoming meetings are:
• Monday, 7-9 p.m., Newnan Utilities Wahoo Creek, 315 Millard Farmer Industrial Blvd.
• Tuesday, 7-9 p.m., Central Educational Center, 160 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
• Thursday, 7-9 p.m., Ruth Hill Elementary School, 57 Sunset Lane.
• Sept. 25, 7-9 p.m., Newnan Crossing Elementary School, 1267 Lower Fayetteville Road.