published Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Bradley commission deciding on number of commissioners

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Before Bradley County can redraw its district boundaries, the County Commission must decide just how many commissioners should be elected.

The panel is scheduled to vote Tuesday.

The county has seven districts, and voters in each elect two county commissioners and one county school board member.

Political boundaries, from congressional districts to county and city districts, have to be adjusted after each census every 10 years to reflect equal representation. The deadline is the end of the year.

The Cleveland City Council recently tweaked some city district lines and finished its work. The new boundaries will be voted on at the Sept. 12 council meeting, Councilman Avery Johnson said.

For Bradley County, Commissioner Jeff Yarber said now is an opportunity to rethink the number of commissioners. He suggested having nine districts with one commissioner from each. That would reduce the current 14 commissioners to nine. Yarber says it would save a small amount of money. But more smaller districts would allow more direct contact with the public, he said.

The redistricting committee, made up of seven commissioners, should be free to consider any combination, including two seats, an A and a B seat within each district, Yarber said.

'"If it ain't broke don't fix it' is not necessarily the best mentality," Yarber said. "It may turn out that this is the best there is. But let it go through the committee."

Commissioner Mel Griffith placed a motion on Tuesday's agenda, however, to tell the redistricting committee to keep the current numbers but just redraw the boundaries to reflect the 2010 census. To do otherwise, he said, would take more time and cause other adjustments, including the school board. People tell him, Griffith said, they like having two commissioners in their districts.

"We [the county commission] are part of the process," Griffith said.

"This decision must be made to start with. If the committee gets it wrong and they come back with districts the commission won't approve, then everything they did has been wasted. They will have to start over."

The commission meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the county courthouse.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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