Residents talk about redistricting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The city held a public hearing on its proposed redistricting plan Monday night &045; and got input from both residents and the aldermen themselves.

Some concerns had to do with the racial makeup of the wards, and some with the redistricting process itself.

Resident Robert Magee, who attended Monday’s hearing, said he would like to see each ward reflect the racial makeup of the city as a whole &045; roughly half black, half white.

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&uot;I would like see it where you could go to any ward and win,&uot; Magee said.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux said her goal was to have Ward 1 be at least 70 percent black. Under the proposed plan, her ward is 68 percent black &045; which is, she said, pretty close to her goal.

&uot;But that was derived by moving whites out, and that’s not the way I wanted it to be,&uot; Arceneaux said. Instead, she wanted more black residents to be drawn into her ward.

Ward 2 Ricky Gray, however, expressed concerns that changes had been made to the proposed map since aldermen last saw it, but only the newest map was brought to Monday’s hearing. Later, Gray said he also wanted to see a map with four majority black wards but that the mapping consultant wouldn’t draw it up. &uot;He said the Department of Justice wouldn’t approve four black wards,&uot; Gray said. &uot;I wasn’t asking him to submit to them &045; I just wanted to see it.&uot;

Gray said he wished aldermen could have gotten an earlier look at the map, which the consultant said he mailed to the city on July 29. &uot;That way, by the time we got to the meeting, all this could have been resolved,&uot; Gray said.

Gray said he would also have liked to see Cambridge Heights included in his ward but was told that area contained too many people.

Board of aldermen ward lines must be redrawn after every census to balance out the number of residents in each ward.

It wasn’t clear as of Monday night when aldermen would vote on whether to send the plan to the Justice Department for its approval.

The state Attorney General’s Office and the Governor’s Office must also sign off on the plan &045; and do it in time for qualifying for next year’s city elections.