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franklin county times

Palmer: New black council district likely

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Jan. 7, 2003
A key black city councilman said Monday that chances remain good that Meridian will gain a third black-majority city council district when ward lines are redrawn this year.
A new black-majority district would make it easier for voters to elect a third black to the five-member city council in the 2005 city elections giving blacks a majority on the council for the first time.
Meridian city councilmen were expected to discuss city redistricting at their 9 a.m. meeting today.
City council members must redraw ward lines every 10 years based on U.S. Census statistics. The new wards must reflect population shifts and be drawn in time for the next city election in 2005.
Population changes
Meridian's current city council districts were based on population statistics from the 1990 Census. The board has two black-majority wards.
Data from the 2000 U.S. Census shows Meridian's population fell 4.8 percent between 1990 and 2000, from 42,003 to 39,968.
During that same period, the number of non-white residents grew 17.3 percent, from 19,071 to 22,388. And the number of white residents fell 23.3 percent, from 22,932 to 17,580.
The Census Bureau defines non-white residents as "blacks, Asians and others."
Councilmen first began working on the new ward lines about a year ago. Meridian hired Bridge &Slaughter an Oxford-based consulting firm to help draw the lines.
Preliminary maps have been completed, but the council has yet to approve any plans. Once the council reaches an agreement on a preliminary map a public hearing will be scheduled.
Council action
After the hearing, the city council will then vote on the new map before sending it to the U.S. Justice Department for final approval.
Some councilmen want to get started on redistricting this month. Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith wants the work finished before the council borrows $5 million to pave and repair streets.
Palmer disagreed.