JACKSON Several Midtown residents are worried after seeing one of the redistricting options D.L. Johnson Consultants has proposed for the city of Jackson.
D.L. Johnson Consultants, headed by state NAACP President Derrick Johnson, presented four possible redistricting maps to the City Council and citizens Thursday night at the Jackson Medical Mall. It was the first time Johnson showed the options to either the city or its leaders.
Three of the redistricting options propose only small changes to the wards, adding or subtracting small areas as needed to balance the populations of each. The other map, Option 3, involves almost completely redrawing wards 3 and 7.
Under the plan, Ward 3 would lose most of its heavily populated northern half along Northside Drive. In place of that loss, Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes' ward would take on the less-densely populated southern two-thirds of Ward 7. Ward 3 would also expand to the west along Fortification and Capitol streets, taking on a portion of Ward 4.
The plan would split the Midtown neighborhood in two. Woodrow Wilson Avenue borders the neighborhood to the north, Fortification Street to the south, West Street to the east and Mill Street to the west. Right now, the entire neighborhood is in Ward 7. Redistricting Plan 3, if approved, would split the neighborhood, with part of it in Ward 3 and the other portion in Ward 7.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said Cooper-Stokes brought the design for Option 3 to D.L. Johnson Consultants. Cooper-Stokes was the only council member who submitted her own map, Barrett-Simon said.
Johnson said that his company drew all four of the maps under consideration of the council members' suggestions and requests, but declined to say which options were most strongly influenced by which members.
Several Midtown residents spoke out against splitting the neighborhood at the Thursday meeting. Jennifer West, president of the Midtown Neighborhood Association, said that because of regulations, the city has to redistrict, but she wants the city to consider what the people of Midtown want.
"In the Midtown area, we're doing a lot of great things," West said at the meeting. "We have strong relationships with organizations (in) Fondren (and in) Belhaven. We'd like to keep those relationships going with the way that we're shaped now."
The Department of Justice will have to approve the plan the City Council chooses before it takes effect. Cooper-Stokes' husband and Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes said at the meeting that the DOJ will pay close attention to the fact that Jackson lost white population over the past decade. He said only Plan 3 would allow for a black councilperson to represent Ward 7.
The other plans set the Ward 7 voting population between 51 and 54 percent African American. Plan 3 would make the wards voting population 69.57 percent black.
"You cannot gain black population and don't create black leadership," Stokes said.
Barrett-Simon said Ward 7, which she has represented since 1985, has been majority black for a long time.
"I just think (Stokes) is misguided. I have represented a majority-black ward for some years now," Barrett-Simon said.
All counties and municipalities have to examine a need for redistricting after every 10-year census. If the largest district, or in this case ward, is more than 10-percent larger than the smallest ward, the city has to redistrict, Johnson told citizens at the meeting. In Jackson, Wards 1 and 6 were over populated, while Wards 3 and 7 were under populated.
The main goal of the redistricting is to adjust the wards' boundaries to set the populations as close to an average as possible. The average population of the seven wards in the city is 24,788. All four plans have Ward 4 as the largest ward with 25,691 citizens, 3.64 percent over the average. All of the plans, except Plan 3, have Ward 3 as the least populated ward with 24,065 residents, 2.92 percent under the average.
The City Council will put the redistricting vote on the agenda for its Aug. 21 meeting. Under city rules, any ordinance must be on the agenda for at least two weeks before going to a vote. Unless the Council votes to suspend the rules, the earliest they can vote for a ward redistricting plan is Sept. 4.
.PDFs of the proposed ward maps coming shortly.