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City looks at options during redistricting
Frank Parker mug
City Manager Frank Parker

Statesboro City Council members determined Tuesday how and when the city will move forward with plans to reconfigure the boundaries of its five voting districts.
    In a work session immediately following council’s scheduled meeting in city hall’s second floor council chambers, Mandi Cody, Director of Community Development, reiterated a necessity to act quickly when finalizing rezoning plans and presented to council a preliminary proposal for reshaping districts.
    Since receiving official census data March 24, “we have worked that data into our city maps and GIS (geographic information system) systems. We have worked very closely with the city manager and staff attorney to put together some sound advice for you all as we move forward in this all-important matter,” said Cody to council. “We have tried to maintain district lines reasonably close to what they are now and have worked to maintain council members’ homes within their respective boundaries, so as to not violate anyone’s right to seek reelection.”
    According to Cody, the proposed district changes are in accordance with state and federal regulations and adequately address the feedback received thus far from members of council.
    The process of redistricting will occur relatively quickly, she said, to ensure the city meets deadlines set by the United States Department of Justice.
    To garner preclearance by the federal department and implement new districts prior to November elections, the city must submit proposals no later than June 29 – the qualifying process ends August 29, but the Department of Justice reserves a 60-day time frame for rendering its decisions. 
    “I would like for you all to study [the plan], consider it closely and comment on it as expediently as you can,” said Cody. “We are under some very strict deadlines.”
    During the session, council agreed on a timeline that will allow a final proposal to be presented to the Department of Justice in the final week of June, while still providing opportunities for community involvement.
    As requested by Councilman Travis Chance, the city will hosts two public work sessions intended to refine a final proposal and offer the citizenry a chance to voice concerns.
    “I think we need to have a minimum of two work sessions after 5 p.m. so citizens can come and provide input,” he said.
    Council scheduled a 5:30 p.m. work session Thursday, May 12 and another the following Thursday. The first of the two meetings will provide residents a chance to visit one of five tables, view district maps and speak with their council representative.
    “To meet our deadline, we definitely have to start next week,” said interim City Manager Frank Parker.
    The two consecutive public sessions will allow council to approve a first reading of a final proposal in its first meeting in June and a second reading in its June 21 session, said Parker.
    The redrawing of district lines comes on the heels of 2010 Census data that revealed dramatic growth in population for the city of Statesboro — the city’s population grew by 24 percent since 2000.
    Substantial growth in council districts two and four have rendered populations in the city’s five districts disproportional.
    According to federal law, in order to ensure every citizen’s vote counts equally, district populations must be balanced — within a five percent deviation, said Cody.
    The city last redistricted in 2000 when the previous census survey data was released.
    Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454

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