Atlanta Council to Redistrict for Midtown, Buckhead Growth
(APN) The City Council of Atlanta has begun the process of redistricting the twelve Council Districts following the 2010 Census results. The Council held a public hearing to discuss redistricting on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.
Atlanta Progressive News has learned that over the last ten years, significant growth has occurred in Midtown (Districts 2 and 6) and Buckhead (Districts 7 and 8), as well as in Southwest Atlanta (District 11), where population grew mostly due to a recent annexation of part of South Fulton.
Alternatively, there have been population losses in South Atlanta, East Atlanta, and part of Northwest Atlanta. Much of these losses are attributed to demolition of public housing, high numbers of foreclosures, and an aging Black, senior population.
APN obtained data on population changes by Council District, through a Georgia Open Records Act request.
District 1, represented by Carla Smith, has a population of 32,660, which is 2,340 below the average district population of 35,000 people. District 1 will have to grow in size to become equal in population.
One source familiar with the matter said Smith may not be considering running for reelection in 2013, due to personal and family considerations.
District 2, represented by Kwanza Hall, has a population of 48,110, which is 13,110 above the average district population. District 2 saw the greatest amount of growth of any District. Much of the growth in Hall’s District is due to new condominium highrises in the Downtown and Midtown areas. District 2 will have to cede some of its territory to other districts in order to become equal in population.
District 3, represented by Ivory Young, has a population of 31,530, which is 3,470 below the average district population. Young’s district has been plagued by foreclosures. District 3 will have to grow in size to become equal in population.
District 4, represented by Cleta Winslow, has a population of 28,166, which is 6,834 below the average district population. Winslow’s district lost public housing. District 4 will have to grow in size to become equal in population.
District 5, represented by Natalyn Archibong, has a population of 29,882, which is 5,118 below the average district population. Archibong’s district has lost public housing. District 5 will have to grow in size to become equal in population.
District 6, represented by Alex Wan, has a population of 39,455, which is 4,455 above the average district population. Much of the growth in District 6 is due to new condominium highrises. District 6 will have to cede some of its territory to other districts in order to become equal in population.
District 7, represented by Howard Shook, has a population of 43,772, which is 8,772 above the average district population. Much of the growth is due to new condominium highrises. District 7 will have to cede some of its territory to other districts in order to become equal in population.
District 8, represented by Yolanda Adrean, has a population of 38,063, which is 3,063 above the average district population. District 8 will have to cede some of its territory to other districts in order to become equal in population.
District 9, represented by Felicia Moore, has a population of 30,619, which is 4,381 below the average district population. Moore’s district has lost public housing. District 9 will have to grow in size to become equal in population.
Moore said during the recent public hearing that because District 9 borders Buckhead’s Districts 7 and 8, that it is likely the Council will consider maps where District 9 would pick up parts of 7 and/or 8, which have grown. This would change the racial composition of the District by adding more White voters, something which may make it more difficult for Moore to get reelected.
Moore said that the Council will have to be wary of any change that may dillute Black voting blocs in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
“The other thing that we also have to be very concerned about is making sure… in each instance, that we have to comply with the Voting Rights Act. And so, there are Districts, District 9 is one, I think District 4 may be others [sic], we have to be very careful to make sure we don’t make a major dillution in the racial composition of those districts,” Moore said.
However, Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson noted that some dillution is unavoidable, seeing as how the population has shifted. In a sense, Blacks have dilluted their own voting strength by moving out of the City. It is difficult to imagine where the excess, primarily White, residents of District 7 and 8 would go, if not to District 9.
“Of course, we are faced, because of the changes to the city, the growth, and the population statistics that I reported ealier, there is some part of that, the city has changed, its composition has changed to a certain degree, so there is some part that we cannot help but have some dillution so to speak, because it is what it is. But it is a requirement that you look very carefully and that you address it in a manner that there are no efforts to further dillute it,” Johnson said.
District 10, represented by CT Martin, has a population of 30,707, which is 4,293 below the average district population. District 10 will have to grow in size to become equal in population.
During the hearing, Martin said that he had already met with Council Members who represent districts neighboring 10, that is, Winslow (District 4) and Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), and they have hashed out a plan where District 10 would remain mostly the same except to take on some of the excess population of 11.
As will be explained below, APN believes this meeting and other meetings referenced during the hearing are an intentional effort by Council Members to violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act by meeting in subsets of a quorum.
District 11, represented by Bottoms, has a population of 39,914, which is 4,914 above the average district population. District 11 will have to cede some of its territory to other districts in order to become equal in population.
District 12, represented by Joyce Sheperd, has a population of 27,125, which is 7,875 below the average district population. District 12 lost more population than any other District, and will have to grow in size to become equal in population.
According to a presentation by Johnson, the Council’s redistricting principles include maintaining communities of interest and keeping Council Members in their own districts, that is, not redistricting any Council Members out of their current districts.
However, it may not be possible to achieve equal districts, preserve Black voting strength, maintain communities of interest, and keep Council Members in their current districts.
For example, there has been some talk of combining Districts 3 and 4, both of which lost residents.
According to one source, Mayor Kasim Reed is trying to steer the redistricting process to make it difficult for certain Council Members–particularly, Archibong and Moore–to get reelected. Reed is unhappy with Archibong and Moore for being progressive, independent thinkers who did not go along with his pension reform proposal.
One strategy that is being considered in an attempt to make Archibong’s reelection more difficult is to give majority White areas in District 6, such as Little Five Points and Lake Claire areas, to District 5. However, such a strategy is unlikely to unseat Archibong, seeing as how these are some of the most progressive parts of the City, populated by White liberals and young as well as aging hippies, while Archibong is the most progressive member of Council.
According to this source, Reed is also looking for candidates to run against Archibong, Moore, and Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) in 2013.
As for the closed meetings, during the hearing, Council Member Moore stated that Council Members had already met for an in-house briefing, which apparently was not open to the public.
In addition, Martin said that he had already met with Winslow and Bottoms, and that other Council Members would be meeting in groups of three, something confirmed by Moore, who said she planned to meet with other Council Members in small groups as well.
“The other thing is, we have this rule about a quorum, so as we meet, we, the three Council Districts that are meeting, we have to make sure we don’t get that out of kilter, that’s why it’s three Council Districts,” Martin said.
“Only three Council Members can meet at a time without having to do public notice and tell the whole world,” Martin said. “So that was part of the thinking, that if you had them in groups of three, you wouldn’t violate that rule.”
However, as readers of APN are aware, APN’s News Editor–the present writer–is in court with the City over a variety of closed-door meetings the Council has been having, where the City has attempted to get around the requirements of the Act by not having a quorum.
As previously noted by APN, case law in Jersawitz v. Fortson states that the quorum does not matter when official business is being discussed. And Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens recently reprimanded the City of Savannah for meeting with City Manager candidates three at a time; how the City of Atlanta thinks that this does not apply to them is not immediatly clear.
Therefore, APN’s Editor will be filing a second amendment to case number 2011-CV-200639 to include the most recent violations related to the closed-door redistricting meetings. There have also been closed-door Committee Briefings, some with quorums and some without. And there was also the pension reform compromise meeting of June 2011, in addition to others.
(END / 2011)