Council tables any action on redistricting plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

FERRIDAY, La. &045; The Ferriday Town Council on Tuesday tabled action on a redistricting plan until a Dec. 18 special meeting so more proposed plans can be drawn for the council’s review.

There is no specific deadline for the town to send a plan to the U.S. Justice Department for its approval. But the department usually has 90 days to review such plans, and approval must be given in time for the town’s March elections.

However, both Councilwoman Dorothy Johnson and resident the Rev. Justin Conner said during a Tuesday public hearing that they object to all three map alternatives drawn by consultant Oliver Schultz.

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While Johnson didn’t detail her objections, Conner said a plan needs to be drawn up based on the latest Census estimates.

&uot;It’s now 2004, and the numbers have changed greatly,&uot; Conner said.

Schultz said the Justice Department will only accept plans based on the latest Census &045; in this case, 2000.

Conner said moving Kyle Road Apartments from District D to District E &045; which would happen under two of the three alternative plans &045; would be unfair to District D Councilman Sammy Davis Jr.

The complex has 300-plus residents.

Conner also said he believes the maps are too gerrymandered. &uot;A blind man ought to be able to get one of these plans and figure it out,&uot; Conner said.

To have a chance of being approved by the Justice Department, however, a plan must be drawn so that districts are within 5 percent of their ideal population &045; in this case, 745 people per district.

And those lines must follow Census block lines.

If such criteria are followed exactly, &uot;any plan you draw is going to have nooks and crannies,&uot; Schultz said.

In the end, Johnson made a successful motion to hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. Dec. 18 to review redistricting plans further. That way, &uot;we can draw up our own plans for review,&uot; Johnson said.

Actually, any member of the public can submit his or her own proposed redistricting plan to the Justice Department for consideration.

Schultz and town officials can’t remember when Ferriday last redrew its council district lines, and Schultz has said it’s possible the last time it was done was in the 1970s.

Or, as McGlothin put it during Tuesday’s meeting, in Ferriday redistricting &uot;hasn’t been done since Jesus was 2 years old.&uot;

As a result, the population of each district had shifted to the point that, in the case of District D, one district contained a full one-third of the town’s population.