By Marc Knapp
If there were any ill feeling carried over from the previous acrimonious Charleston City Council meeting, it was not obvious at the council’s May 24 gathering. There were no harsh words and business was conducted as normal.
It was a strong contrast to the meeting of two weeks previous when some council members volubly protested Mayor Joe Riley’s action to vote again on a redistricting plan, and were slowly brought to order.
Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, one of the council members who protested, spoke glowingly of the effort of staff and others to craft an acceptable redistricting plan and acknowledged that it was not possible given the census data to craft four majority/minority districts.
Councilman Jimmy S. Gallant III made a similar acknowledgment and credited Marion Welch of the S.C. Coalition of Voter Participation with “making clear that was not clear.” Councilman Timothy Mallard was uncharacteristically silent.
Since the last council meeting, there have been a series of public meetings to consider redistricting plans. Staff also prepared Plan D which was essentially Plan C2 with the incorporation of suggestions by Gregorie.
Some of the public meetings were attended by a representative of Coalition of Voter Participation. This body made a number of suggestions which staff acknowledged as being helpful.
These, along with some minor changes, were incorporated into the C2 Plan, now called the C2 Final Revised Plan. It was adopted by council with no opposition. Plan D was abandoned as being impractical.
As was noted by Planning, Preservation and Sustainability Director Tim Keane, the adopted plan has three majority/minority council districts (Districts 3, 4 and 7) and two districts in which minorities have significant representation (District 6 with about 25 percent and District 9 with 23.9 percent minority representation).
Despite the changes made, all districts have comparable populations and numbers of registered voters with deviations of only about 1 percent. Welch addressed council and noted that the Coalition of Voter Participation had made suggestions which were incorporated into the plan. He also praised staff for their work and cooperation.
Viewers can see the map of the new districts here.
As a result of the redistricting, existing districts 3 and 5 are to be merged into one, and called District 3. Councilmen Gallant and James Lewis Jr. are the respective incumbents in the existing districts.
The other majority/minority districts, 4 and 5, are represented by Robert Mitchell and Louis Waring, respectively.
The two districts with strong minority representation, 6 and 9, are presently represented by Gregorie and Aubry Alexander.
A new district is created in the adopted plan and will be District 5. It will encompass all of Johns Island and outer parts of West Ashley.
There were many other changes, one of which the transfer of much of the southern part of the peninsula from District 1 (Councilman Gary White Jr.) to District 8 (Councilman Michael Seekings). White will still represent Ansonborough and the French Quarter, as well as Daniel Island.
The new plan will now go to the U.S. Department of Justice for review and assuming its acceptance, the new districts will be used in the city council elections in November.
Marc Knapp is a contractor specializing in heavy underground utilities and the owner of Charleston Site Utilities.
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