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Redistricting vote expected at Board of aldermen meeting

By Randy Bell

After several delays and a decision that was vetoed, plans to establish new ward lines for Clinton are expected to come up for another vote at the Board of Aldermen meeting on December 5. Nine maps have been drawn up to redistrict the City based on the 2020 census.

The Board voted 4-3 on September 19 to adopt a plan the local NAACP submitted as an alternative to the six original maps. The group said its map better reflects the city’s demographics. Mayor Phil Fisher vetoed the Board’s decision, saying the map would split too many subdivisions. Since then, two other maps have been developed.

“I get the feeling that everyone has their mind made up,” Ward 6 Alderman James Lott wrote in an email. “I’m ready to finally have this behind us, so we can better focus on other current issues, as well as future City business.”

Lott, the only African American on the Board, voted with the majority in September to adopt the NAACP map, known as Plan 7. The organization is considering a possible challenge, should a different plan be approved this time. “The NAACP has every right to challenge the decision,” Lott wrote.

Alderman-At-Large Ricki Garrett says she’s not sure if there’s a consensus among Board members on a redistricting plan, but she’d like to see that. “Getting to consensus was what we have been working to achieve,” she wrote in an email. “However, if there isn’t consensus, then we will accept majority rule, just like we do with other votes.”
Regarding the possible NAACP challenge, Garrett says, “You can’t let a threat of litigation keep you from making what you believe is the right decision.” She says the Board has given the NAACP map the same consideration as the other redistricting plans.

The mayor has insisted that the debate over the ward lines has been politically motivated and was intended to help Ward 5 Alderwoman Beverly Oliver hold onto one of her key neighborhoods, Bruenburg. “That’s what this was all about, is getting [Oliver] re-elected,” Fisher said on November 6. But Oliver says, “That is not a true statement at all from our Mayor. I wouldn’t presume to know where I will be in a year and a half. The constituents in Bruenburg communicated a desire to stay in Ward 5, and they didn’t want the neighborhood shifted under two different aldermen/alderwomen,” said Oliver. “We are elected to listen to our constituents; and, with that in mind, we tried to honor that.”

Oliver said she would like to see the Board finally wrap up the redistricting issue. “Right now, there are nine plans to choose from, and we hope we can all come to a consensus.”

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