published Monday, December 19th, 2011

City Council and backers of new redistricting plan clash

by Cliff Hightower
Final Chattanooga City Redistricting Proposal
Final Chattanooga City Redistricting Proposal
Photo by Laura McNutt /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Community Group Redistricting Proposal
Community Group Redistricting Proposal
Chattanooga Population Summary Report
Chattanooga Population Summary Report

Two redistricting plans have created controversy over what Chattanooga should look like over the next 10 years.

One plan was made and has been approved by the City Council. The other was proposed by black community leaders and given to the council to ponder.

The council plan takes into account an increasing Hispanic population. The community plan tries to keep a strong black majority in four districts.

The community plan shifts some of the traditional black-majority districts east, creating major changes in districts 6 and 8.

"What it said to me was that it was drawn by someone who isn't from Chattanooga and doesn't understand Chattanooga," said Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the council's Legal and Legislative Committee, who represents District 9.

But state Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, who enlisted a demographer and an attorney to come up with the plan, said that was nonsense.

"We didn't wake up yesterday and start looking at this," she said. "We're not some 'Johnny come lately' group."

Political lines are redrawn every 10 years after the national census to take into account shifting populations and changing borders. In its redistricting process, Chattanooga also must take care not to retrogress under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Last week, council members approved their own plan on first reading in a 6-0 vote. The second reading will be Tuesday night.

The city attorney's office has said the council's redistricting plan should be able to withstand any challenges.

Joe Rowe, first vice president for the local NAACP chapter, said the council's plan does only one thing.

"It's pretty obvious they are protecting their turf," he said.

He said the council-drawn districts don't take into account annexation and some places where gentrification will occur.

"It looks like we will only have one black face on the City Council in 10 years," Rowe said. Today, two of the city's nine council members are black and one is Hispanic. Four council members are women.

But Murphy said that things just didn't seem to come together in the community plan. He said he lost 30 percent of his district, and District 8, which is represented by Andraé McGary, would only keep 20 percent of its current boundaries.


A group of black leaders handed the Chattanooga City Council a proposal last week to create four majority-black districts. The City Council also has its own proposal. Here's how the community plan differs from the council proposal.

• Districts 1, 2 and 3 are the same in both plans.

• District 4: Large portions of Concord would go to District 6.

• District 5: Airport and Eastgate Town Center areas shift into District 5.

• District 6: Loses airport and Eastgate areas and shifts east toward East Brainerd

• District 7: Gathers huge swaths of downtown, including most of Highland Park and Eastside.

• District 8: Shifts a little eastward, taking in parts of District 5.

• District 9: Shifts south, taking in East Lake and Cedar Hill, and taps parts of Districts 5 and 6 to the east.

"It looked like they were changing things just to disrupt things," he said.

Councilman Manny Rico, who would see large portions of his district change under the community plan, agreed.

He said the community plan would take East Lake and Cedar Hills away from him.

"These are people I've represented for six years," he said.

In turn, the plan would have given him Highland Park and Eastside.

But Brown, who was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that led to the switch from a city commission to a council-mayor government, said the professionals that worked on the plan for her came up with the best scenario.

She scoffed at any mention that the plan came from outside Chattanooga.

"Who do you think filed the lawsuit?" she asked. "Who do you think has been watching the last 25 years? I probably know them better than they know themselves."

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larwilb60 said...

go to AT LARGE voting and skip all the district crap and let the BEST candidates represent the people...PERIOD! WHy do Blacks and minorities deserve SPECIAL TREATMENT? WE NOW HAVE A SELF PROFESSED BLACK PRESIDENT and we didnt divide the country up into districts to achieve this!

December 19, 2011 at 6:21 a.m.
educator2012 said...

The way this plan looks, my community will get a new councilman. But its Manny Rico.. Hmm Andrae McGary or Manny Rico. I'd rather have the lesser of the two evils which is Andrae. Even though Andrae developed a big head and lost his "down to earth quality," I still believe he is a great councilman. Manny Rico is not someone who I will support. Especially after his fiasco with Rep Tommie Brown who has done much to help the community. We can agree to disagree but Id rather have a new candidate than Manny Rico....

December 19, 2011 at 8:13 a.m.
jharvey1984 said...

umm...pretty sure we did divide the country into districts to elect Obama (and every other president). Only difference is they call them "states".

December 19, 2011 at 8:18 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

larwil60 just can't let it go, he asks,."WHy do Blacks and minorities deserve SPECIAL TREATMENT? " It is because you proved that you will run roughshod over their interests in order to keep a segregated society with only white representation lacking any semblance of fairness. It is a shame that it takes special districting to do it, a reflection on how poorly we honor the rights of all people, but especially in Chattanooga it is a reality.

If race makes no difference then lets arrange the plan so ALL council persons are black larwil60, so you can show your colors.

December 19, 2011 at 8:49 a.m.

These districts look like they were drawn by drunken monkeys. When they look like that I know someone is trying to get away with manipulating elections. Why not make it fair and draw square/rectangular districts? You know, so it represents real neighborhoods instead of frankenhoods.

December 19, 2011 at 9:59 a.m.
sage1 said...

How can total de-segregation ever really exist as long as races continue to place proper adjectives in front of AMERICAN?

December 19, 2011 at 3:33 p.m.
fedup350 said...

It is amazing that people actually think they are "entitled" to special treatment because of the color of their skin. No one is entitled to special treatment. Everyone, including liberals are getting tired of the race card being played. Some people have been told all their lives by the democrats that they will not succeed without special treatment and extra advantages over other races.. I would be indignant to be told that I would never be good enough without "special treatment". That has been so ingrained in today’s blacks that they truly believe they can’t succeed without being given a "special advantage". The same people that think they are “entitled” to special advantages because of their race are the first ones to scream racism or play the race card. How hypocritical is that???

December 19, 2011 at 4:01 p.m.
fedup350 said...

Let me get this straight. Tommie Brown says: I want special treatment and the districts drawn to favor black people, in other words I want to be treated different because I am black and If you don’t treat me different because of my race then you are a racist. What???

December 19, 2011 at 4:08 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

Actually they want special treatment since the kind of special treatment they get, by the sound of fedup350, lawbil60 and sage1 is a burning cross. If you all are openminded, then lets make all the reps African-ameican instead of Western-european-American, things should progress at least as well as they do now and wait for you guys to walk a mile in their shoes.

Tommy Brown is trying to at least let a major proportion of our public have a voice in governance.

December 19, 2011 at 5:22 p.m.
Lr103 said...

larwilb60 said... ! WHy do Blacks and minorities deserve SPECIAL TREATMENT?

dunno, but could it be maybe, just maybe whites got special treatment for centuries which led to the present mess? If the playing field had been equal and without favoritism from the beginning none of these issues would be an ongoing problem.

December 19, 2011 at 6:12 p.m.
Lr103 said...

fedup350 said... It is amazing that people actually think they are "entitled" to special treatment because of the color of their skin

Isn't that what my and your European-American ancestors got for centuries at the expense of others? Special treatment? In fact, I know because of my European-American whiteness I will always be entitled to special treatment. No laws or rulings needed. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it always will be. But I'm just one who doesn't mind sharing the harvest.

December 19, 2011 at 6:26 p.m.
hcirehttae said...

Packing black people into districts to create or ensure minority representation was well intentioned in days when voting rights were routinely abridged by legal means. Today, this mindset is outdated. What would Martin Luther King Jr. say about these gerrymandered districts? Both these maps are abominations, because they destroy affinity of neighborhoods and interests. People who live together in proximity, in community, have a right to elect a common representative, and that is a more progressive idea than the old canard that people of the same skin color necessarily have common cause. Look what we're perpetuating here: the idea that black people will only vote for blacks, and whites for whites. We should simply draw districts that are roughly square or rectangular, not much wider than they are long; respecting natural boundaries like rivers and ridges; avoiding these preposterous barbell shapes; then trusting the citizens of America to vote for, elect to office, and hold accountable their representatives regardless of skin color or ethnic origin. Authentic neighborhood districting is not the same as a return to at-large elections, which were employed to prevent black candidates from being elected at all--an evil tool whose time is past.

December 19, 2011 at 10:08 p.m.
Lr103 said...

Look what we're perpetuating here: the idea that black people will only vote for blacks, and whites for whites.

But isn't that what these modern day redistricting plans are actually trying to do? Guarantee they put someone in office who if not looks like them, thinks like them and return to disenfranchising an entire group of people? That's actually no different than why a creation for minority districts were needed in the first place? I tend to believe Dr. King and those individualas, black and white, who risked their lives before would see right through these present day shenanigans and would be putting on their marching boots, preparing to march just as strengently as they did before.

December 20, 2011 at 2:16 a.m.
sage1 said...

Why not fill it up with Southern Americans, inquiringmind? Minorities are the most racist people on the face of the earth.

December 20, 2011 at 5:10 a.m.

-"One plan was made and has been approved by the City Council."- Thank you City Council, Job done. Oh wait lets throw that out and go with the plan constructed in cooperation with the individuals who will actually benefit from the redistricting. Everyone can be whining about black,white,hispanic,blue,pink blah blah blah... The Plan has been voted on if that poses a problem for the complacent council members well to bad. This should at least mix things up and hopefully promote change. If it's bad change the people should come together and fix it. If its good change then we definitely need it! Quit hiding bej=hind your race people. Earn the postitions or get the F out!

December 20, 2011 at 4:20 p.m.
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