published Friday, September 16th, 2011

Hamilton County approves commission districts

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The Hamilton County Commission on Thursday approved a plan to redraw the county’s political boundaries based on 2010 census figures.

Two commissioners, District 2’s Jim Fields and District 6’s Joe Graham, voted against the plan.

“I just didn’t feel confident with the numbers in the proposed plan,” Fields said after the meeting.

District 3 Commissioner Mitch McClure asked County Attorney Rheubin Taylor if the map would be legally defensible if challenged in court.

“The state thinks that we’ve made a good effort and would be willing to say that,” Taylor said.

Joe Rowe, the NAACP’s first vice president for political affairs, said he would take the map to Nashville to be reviewed by his organization’s attorney before taking a position on it.

Every 10 years, after each U.S. census, the state requires the county to draw new lines based on population shifts and minority concentration. This year’s redistricting plan is due Jan. 1.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said the county was shooting to keep the districts within 10 percent deviation between the smallest and largest districts.

Fields and Graham’s two districts are now the smallest.

One resident, Stephen Fairley, criticized the redistricting process for not being more transparent.

“We have not seen the maps you guys have voted on,” he said. “I thought we were going to have a public dialogue. You have already voted on a map that has not been shared with the general public.”

Fairley asked commissioners to reconsider the matter and said he had called the state comptroller’s office to ask about the process. Officials in Nashville told him something different than they had Taylor, he said.

“I don’t think the way that this was handled will withstand the test of judicial review,” he said. “I don’t know how you can say that you’ve met the letter of the law.”

Henry said he wishes Fairley had called him earlier.

“I’ve tried to conduct it just as publicly as I could,” Henry said.

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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