Alabaster approves redistricting plan Councilman Harris expresses burden

Alabaster Councilmember Bobby Harris said dealing with voter redistricting and eminent

domain efforts by the city to acquire property from residents for development in the Interstate 65, Exit 238 area has been one of the most troubling experiences of his life.

And when the city council approved a redistricting proposal with centralized voting that does not include a minority district Monday night, Harris, who has served on the council for the past 12 years, abstained from voting.

He acknowledged that he was on the committee that worked on drawing up the city’s proposed redistricting plan, which was approved 6-0 by the remaining councilmembers.

But Harris pointed out that

the U.S. Justice Department can only help a city with its plan after it is submitted.

&uot;My hope is when we make our submission, (the Justice Department) will come in and help us come up with a minority district,&uot; he said.

Harris said in the past districts have been split, and he hopes the Justice Department will look at that again. He said he would love to see part of Ward 1 in Ward 7.

For the moment, Harris said the only thing the city could do is submit its proposal.

But he stressed that he hopes the Justice Department will come back and help the city to have an &uot;inclusive community.&uot;

Harris, the only black member of the Alabaster City Council, said he has tried to keep the community together for the past three years, &uot;but if you only knew the burden I’m under to hold the community together, you would empathize.&uot;

Following the redistricting vote, council president Rick Walters said, &uot;I

appreciate Mr. Harris’ position and I appreciate him working with us. It’s a tough decision.&uot;

At a previous public hearing on the city’s redistricting plan, Walters pointed out that he, Harris and councilmember Henry Hines worked with a consultant to develop the proposal.

He said among considerations given were use of natural boundaries, keeping neighborhoods intact, wards intact as much as possible and reducing the number of legal challenges.

Walters also said the proposed map eliminates unfairly making current members of the council move their residence and prevents splitting wards.

While one alternate proposal not adopted by the council Monday night includes a 67.03 black population majority in

Ward 1 with a 66.72 voting age black majority.

Walters said that proposal violates the &uot;one man, one vote rule.&uot;

He said wards must be within 5 percent of the mean population. With the mean at 3,381, that proposed ward has a population of 1,720 which is about 50 percent below.

In response to Harris with regard to the eminent domain issue, a resident of Interstate Drive, asked, &uot;Have you thought about the burden on us?&uot; she said.

&uot;We intend to keep our property and we’re going to keep our property.&uot;

The voting district proposal approved by the city council Monday night includes voting age populations as follows:

District 1, 35 percent black, 63.56 per white and 1.44 percent other; District 2, 5.06

percent black, 91.94 percent white and 3 percent other; District 3, 4.18 percent black, 94.33 percent white, and 1.49 percent other; District 4, 5.46 percent black, 92.17 percent white, and 2.38 percent other; District 5, 6.26 percent black, 91.75 percent white, and 2 percent other; District 6, 3.86 percent black, 93.02 percent white, and 3.12 percent other; District 7, 4.58 percent black, 93.55 percent white and 1.88 percent other; total population, 9.57 percent black, 88.25 percent white, and 2.18 percent other