New Hattiesburg redistricting option presented to council - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

New Hattiesburg redistricting option presented to council and public

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

The third and final public hearing on Hattiesburg redistricting is under way Tuesday night at the Danny Hinton Community Center. So far, discussions have been heated with accusations of racism.  

Tonight, a new option is being presented to the council and the public, but city council president Kim Bradley says this new proposal won't put anything to rest.  

"We'll talk about the plans that have already been introduced," said Bradley.

The first proposed redistricting plan did not receive a warm reception from some black residents and Ward two Councilwoman Deborah Delgado. According to Delgado the plan, increased the number of African Americans in ward five, an already majority black ward, but did not show any changes in other wards.

"I was disappointed, because the redistricting consultant really just brought us a document that maintained the status quo," said Delgado.

Even though the 2010 census showed the African American population in the city grew to 53 percent.

"Our redistricting plans needs to reflect that. We need to make sure that we adhere to the principle of one man one vote," said Delgado.

The second plan had two sides butting heads. A coalition of black community leaders asking for three majority black wards, which would break up ward four, and the residents of the ward fighting against it.

"Breaking up ward four and dividing all those neighborhoods is not acceptable," said a ward four resident.

"Gerrymandering of ward four to achieve this political purpose is reprehensible," said a ward four resident.

Tuesday night, another option from Councilman Henry Naylor.

"It takes the existing plan that we have today, that's in place today and it actually moves what would be the third majority black ward to ward one," said Hattiesburg City Council President Kim Bradley.

Bradley says that's his ward.

"My immediate concerns is that it divides USM. A natural barrier for ward one has always been Highway 49 and Hardy Street. Now it would take some of the dormitories off USM campus, and put them in Dave Ware in ward four," said Bradley.

Over the phone, Naylor told a reporter that this plan would show the population: 53 percent black, 43 percent white and the rest being other. It would also show efforts to preserve the historic neighborhoods. But Bradley says you shouldn't divide the biggest economic engine in the city.

"If you want to create a third black majority ward you are going to have to gerrymander something to create it, to make it be. I think this is where a lot of the discussion is going to be over the next couple weeks,"said Bradley.

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