Alabaster, Pelham slam county’s redistricting plan

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Officials in Pelham and Alabaster said they did not feel the Shelby County Commission took their concerns into consideration when it passed a commission redistricting plan during its Aug. 8 meeting.

Map of the new districts. (Contributed / Shelby County)

During the meeting, the commission voted unanimously to approve the new plan. Each of the nine commission districts elects a representative to serve on the County Commission.

The commission’s vote came a week after the Alabaster City Council passed a resolution condemning the plan. Because the new plan will place parts of Alabaster in six of the nine commission districts, Alabaster officials said it could dilute the city’s representation on the commission.

Before the commission voted to pass the new plan, Alabaster City Manager George Henry, City Council President Jim McClain and Councilman Rick Walters asked the commission to delay voting on the matter. County Attorney Butch Ellis said the commission needed to send the plan to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval by Aug. 15.

“I asked them to reconsider, and they said they had to get it to the Justice Department by the 15th,” McClain said. “If (the commission members) did consider our concerns, they didn’t voice that today.

“I was hopeful they would give us an opportunity to provide input this morning as the largest city in Shelby County,” McClain added. “We were not given the opportunity or a format to voice our concerns to them.”

County Manager Alex Dudchock said the county’s Department of Development Services, which drafted the redistricting plan, sought feedback from every municipality in the county before presenting the plan.

District 4 County Commissioner and Alabaster resident Dan Acker said the new plan will give Alabaster residents a majority in districts 3 and 4.

“They could have two representatives on the commission,” Acker said. “Alabaster has 30,000 people, and they wanted 15,000 in one district and 15,000 in another. That’s just not possible.”

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said the new plan does not include a “majority Pelham” district, and also said the city’s representation on the commission could be negatively impacted.

“I think (the plan) is short-sighted on the county’s part,” Murphy said. “Most of the time, those districts are made for the incumbents. They want to cut out competition.

“As much money as we pay these consultants and planners, we can’t get equal representation on the commission?” Murphy added. “I’m a mean enough mayor that I will fight for our rights.”

District 7 Commissioner and Indian Springs resident Lindsay Allison said she “completely disagreed” with Murphy, and said commissioners seek to benefit the “county as a whole.”

“If you look at the map of the new districts, you will see there are some pretty large shifts. Some commissioners are picking up huge population shifts,” Allison said. “We have a very difficult job trying not only to meet the criteria of the Department of Justice, but also the needs of the municipalities in the county.

“It concerns me to see Alabaster and Pelham lobbying, because it is not good for the county as a whole,” Allison added. “I have never seen a commissioner act in favor of one city in exclusion of another.”