MC Council tweaks redistricting plan
By: JAMES A. ROBICHAUX
MORGAN CITY — Moving the boundaries of city council districts — and therefore moving some Morgan City residents into different districts — was the subject of a public meeting last night at the city auditorium.
Consulting demographer Mike Hefner of Geographic Planning & Demographic Services LLC reviewed his initial proposal map with city council members, who discussed and made small changes they thought would be least disruptive to current constituents.
The overriding issue discussed in the meeting was that of maintaining a majority black population in District 3, as required by the Section 5 rule of the US Department of Justice, from the demographics from the 2000 census to the 2010 census.
“I’ve been working it quite a bit the last couple of weeks trying to figure out what combination of blocks of moving whites out and blacks in that might get our numbers up, but it’s not really fitting very well,” Hefner said. “What you think might pick up minority population is not picking up enough minority population to offset the non-minority population you’re picking up in the meantime.”
If a municipality or a parish has a pre-existing majority-minority district, the Justice Department requires that it be maintained when redistricting, even if it fails to meet 5 percent deviation in overall population that is otherwise mandated as absolute when drawing congressional districts. Limited geography for small municipalities makes maintaining such deviation limits more difficult. Therefore, Hefner said, the law allows more elasticity for population deviation when drawing local council districts.
Hefner presented his findings at the meeting Tuesday for council members and the public to offer input and suggest changes.
“I’m not one that develops a plan and says, ‘This is the plan, this is the only plan, this is the only thing you’re going to do.’ I’d rather us all come to the conclusion together,” he said.
“That’s one reason why I don’t come and just stick it in your face and say, ‘Hey, it’s got to be this or nothing.’ So, the meeting tonight is to show you what the issues are, show you the problems we’re running into, and see if we can’t collectively come up with some ways to try to address the situation. If that’s the best we can do, at least we know that that’s the best we can do.”
One of the many changes suggested at the meeting was transferring the areas bound by Redwood and Cottonwood streets between Bernice Street and La. 182 into District 4, though some councilmen saw a problem in that idea.
“There are people on Bernice Street who have been very, very loyal, and I would hate to get some flak from them,” District 3 Councilman Ron Bias said.
Most of his fellow councilmen seemed to agree, noting that those residents had been transferred into District 3 after the 2000 census.
“What we’re going to do for the meeting coming up on April 24 is, I’ll have an introductory ordinance, and I’ll also have a set of maps. The maps we’re going to send out ahead of time, and the city’s going to post them on its website,” he said.
Hefner said the council should introduce an ordinance at the April 24 meeting, if the map meets its approval, then have another public hearing at the May meeting. Then, with no objection, the city will adopt the ordinance, and Hefner will submit it to the Department of Justice.
“We have to get Justice Department approval before the plan can go into effect. We have to have it by early August,” Hefner said.
City elections are slated for the fall.