New district maps presented

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NATCHEZ — The current City of Natchez redistricting plan on the table moves 2,150 residents from one ward to another.

William Rigby, the consultant hired to lead the city’s redistricting effort, presented new maps to the aldermen and five members of the public Tuesday night at a public hearing.

Rigby of Holland & Rigby in Madison said he had met with each of the aldermen in small groups earlier this month to present proposed maps and hear their concerns.

Email newsletter signup

Those meetings prompted a few changes that Rigby presented Tuesday.

Aldermen looked closely at the maps Tuesday, and Rigby fielded questions about specific street placements from Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Aldermen James “Rickey” Gray and Ernest “Tony” Fields.

Mathis expressed concern about areas of the city on U.S. 61 South and Old Country Club Road to the north that were recently annexed but are currently unoccupied. She asked Rigby to look at a Supreme Court case in Alabama about a similar issue, saying property values of the land indicate what race may one day live in the areas and asking the board to consider that in the redistricting process.

Clifton Marvel, first vice president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also addressed the board with a statement.

“Let the record reflect that the (NAACP) is opposed to any redistricting plans put forth by the City of Natchez that do not reflect present racial population and do not reflect the spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” he read.

Mathis also asked Rigby and City Attorney Everett Sanders about a deadline for other plans to be presented.

“My understanding from the NAACP is that there is a plan in the process,” she said.

Both Rigby and Sanders acknowledged that time for new plans was running out, since the city must approve a plan next week in order to receive U.S. Department of Justice approval in time to proceed with upcoming city elections.

Rigby will attend the board’s regular meeting Tuesday to answer any last questions or offer advice on the redistricting plan.

The board will meet Thursday, Oct. 27 to vote on the plan.

The city is required to redistrict following the 2010 Census numbers, which indicated significant population shifts.

In other business, the city briefly discussed its fire protection agreement with Adams County during a work session before the public hearing.

The county voted Monday to renew the agreement, but without committing to an extra $50,000 the city had requested.

Mathis expressed frustration that though the city had initially taken the request for additional funds to the county several months before budget time, the county failed to address it in their budgeting process.

“We are going to have to hold to what we said,” she said about the extra $50,000.

“Since we’ve changed centuries, we have consistently said there needs to be a difference in the amount of money (from the county).”

Alderman Mark Fortenbery suggested the city arrange a meeting with the county to discuss the numbers.

“Let’s throw everything out on the table and say this is what we spend and this is what we get back,” he said.