published Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Cleveland, Tenn., city council redistricting plan fails

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The City Council's redistricting plan ground to a halt Monday.

Under federal law, local and state governments are required to redraw district boundaries based on population shifts and minority concentration based on 2010 U.S. census figures. Local governments have until Jan. 1, 2012, to reconfigure districts.

The Cleveland City Council has five districts represented plus two at-large council members. The county has seven districts with two commissioners representing each district.

The City Council's impasse came when Councilman Charlie McKenzie said he would vote against the proposed city districts.

McKenzie said he wanted his district to be extended to include a small area that would be in Councilman Bill Estes' district.

"I will vote no. Nobody ever discussed it with me," McKenzie said. "There's a little area around Deer Park I would like to have."

After the meeting, McKenzie said the spot in question is his mother's house. He also said he will not be offering any other plan.

"You are wanting to draw a very thin line to incorporate one house on one street that crosses two districts," Estes said to McKenzie. "That's embarrassing."

Lawrence Armstrong, representing the Bradley chapter of the NAACP, cautioned against gerrymandering, which is redrawing districts to favor one political party or the other.

"That's exactly what this sounds like," Armstrong said.

Councilman George Poe said he could not support any plan where there was disagreement. Poe and Richard Banks, the two at-large council members, voted no along with McKenzie.

Estes, David May and Johnson voted yes, leaving the deciding vote to Councilman Dale Hughes.

"This puts me in a position I don't like," Hughes said. He voted "pass," so the plan failed.

Asked if he would vote for the proposed plan if it comes up again, McKenzie said, "I'll have to sleep on that. I don't want to do anything that harms the city. The city comes first."

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.

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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