published Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Officials oppose redistricting split of Bradley County

By Paul Leach/Correspondent

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission does not want to see the county split by any redistricting plans proposed by the Tennessee General Assembly.

In a 14-0 vote, the commission late Tuesday passed a resolution officially expressing that sentiment to the state's Republican leadership, the state Legislature, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sen. Mike Bell.

The resolution, introduced by Commissioner Brian Smith, states that the commission believes such a split "would dilute the unified voice and power of Bradley County citizens in the Tennessee General Assembly."

On Wednesday, proposed state redistricting plans -- which include the division of Bradley County between the 9th and 10th Senate Districts -- were made public.

The plan calls for the northwest corner of Bradley County to form the 9th Senate District with Meigs, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties. The rest of Bradley County would form the 10th Senate District with the southern portions of Hamilton County.

"From the beginning I have said that I want Bradley County whole," Bell said Wednesday. "I don't want it split."

Bell said he had expressed his displeasure to Senate Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson about the plans.

However, Bell said, he doesn't know if he will oppose the plan if it makes it to the floor of the Legislature for a vote, which he expects to happen on Jan. 20.

"I have heard from constituents on both sides regarding Bradley County," he said.

Despite the county commission's unanimous vote asking that Bradley County remain unified, a few commissioners said a split might not harm the county's representation.

Commissioner Ed Elkins said that, depending on how the county was split, Bradley County as a whole might even have a stronger vote.

Commissioner Adam Lowe said he wants to support the resolution "because of what my constituents say."

However, he said, he thought the sentiment likely was a moot point considering the logistical hurdles facing the legislature. From strategic and political perspectives, Lowe said, he understood why the state might divide the county.

By taking away its unified voice, Bradley County stands to lose some of its ability to bring in state dollars, Commissioner Jeff Yarber said.

Commissioner Connie Wilson asked Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg if the county had any recourse if it eventually is split by redistricting legislation in the General Assembly.

"This resolution would be merely telling Bradley County's position," Freiberg said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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