Members of the Mobile City Council have introduced a new redistricting map that one representative calls a compromise between Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s proposal and a plan drawn up by a community coalition and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The map, sponsored by District 1 Councilman Cory Penn, District 2 Councilman William Carroll and District 4 Council Ben Reynolds would still make District 7 a Black voting age majority district, but would increase it to 53 percent. Stimpson’s proposal left the Black majority at about 51 percent.Council map
The map tweaks a few lines from the community group map, Reynolds said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. He called the map a “compromise” that he hopes can gain the support of the needed supermajority of councilors. If councilors can’t get a supermajority to approve any of the maps on the agenda by a deadline of Aug. 12, Stimpson’s proposal automatically goes into effect.
“It doesn’t appear that there are five votes for the mayor’s plan and it doesn’t appear there are five votes for the community plan,” Reynolds said. “It’s important we have consensus on a plan and not just default to the mayor’s plan.”
Reynolds said he believes the newest map could garner the support of both residents and Stimpson.
“We made changes to District 7 to satisfy the outcry for 53 percent Black voting age population,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be five votes for this either, but it allows us to get feedback on it.”
Approval of the newest map, Reynolds said, would show the council is listening to residents. It will also show the body can work together on the “best way forward for the city,” as possible votes on annexation, Ladd-Peebles Sports and Entertainment Complex and the Civic Center loom on the horizon.
“Everyone can sort of look at this as a way to move past racial division,” Reynolds said.
As for a previous vow to abstain on redistricting votes until the city deals with annexation, Reynolds said he has now been presented an annexation plan and therefore plans to vote in the affirmative on the new redistricting map.
The map in question is set to be introduced at the regular council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2. If a redistricting vote takes place, it will most likely happen at a meeting a week later on Aug. 9. The deadline to pass a redistricting map is Friday, Aug. 12.
In a statement, Beverly Cooper, president of a local voting rights group called Stand Up Mobile, said the map was “an important step” in providing fair representation for the city’s Black residents.
“We are grateful that after six months of pleading with this Administration and Council that they meet their legal and moral obligations by providing a fourth district which allows the Black community the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice, they appear ready to do so,” she said in the statement.
However, Cooper seemed skeptical of the motive for the new map, especially since the major changes between it and the community map appear to be switching some of the district lines from District 1 to District 5. She is calling for “no strings attached with this vote.
“With annexation just around the corner though, it is essential that this map does not come at a steep cost of losing this representation before we ever get it and for decades to come,” she said in the statement. “It would be a complete travesty for this important step to be undone through an annexation and with the numbers publicly floated in the past few weeks, there is NO WAY it would not be. There must not be any strings attached to an annexation proposal – whether publicly or in the backrooms of Government Plaza.”
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