Blacks express concerns over consolidation

Blacks express concerns over consolidation

November 1st, 2009 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

Staff Photo by Lesley Onstott<br> Joe Rowe, center, at a meeting Saturday at the Southside Recreation Center, discusses the effect of annexation on the abilities of minority to be elected to government.

Staff Photo by Lesley Onstott<br> Joe Rowe, center, at...

Concerns about Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield's plans for a combined city-county government or annexation include how such moves would affect black representation in government.

"We want to be sure all of us will be counted (in the 2010 census), and we won't be disenfranchised," state Rep. JoAnne Favors said Saturday.

Around a long table, Rep. Favors and several community leaders discussed the effects of annexation on Saturday afternoon at one of three planned public meetings.

After hearing concerns about Chattanooga's annexation plans, state Rep. Tommie Brown, who was not at Saturday's meeting, and Rep. Favors decided to host the meetings to discuss the impact a combined government would have on the city's black population.

The Saturday meeting lasted two hours and about 15 residents and Chattanooga City Councilmen Andraé McGary and Russell Gilbert attended.

Several residents expressed concern for what annexation could do to dilute the black vote, and asked for the rest of the group to take a stand against the moves.

When residents expressed their desire to go on the record against annexation, a representative from the Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, an organization that filed a lawsuit against the city in Hamilton County Chancery Court on Oct. 28 to block the city's plans, stood up and asked for the support of the group.

"A lot of (your) views align with our views," said Ken Carey, the HCRAA treasurer.

While most people at the meeting opposed the annexations, Rep. Favors said afterward she would wait until after all three meetings to offer her stance on the issue.

Residents need to realize the 2010 census must accurately represent the minority populations, said Joe Rowe, who Ms. Favors asked to speak at the meeting. He said the census count and the annexations could affect the number of blacks on the City Council and County Commission.

He said the census count also affects how much money the area gets in federal spending.

"We need to make sure we're all in this together," Mr. Rowe said.

Many questions were directed to Mr. McGary, who said he would bring the groups' concerns to the City Council.

People's main concerns are whether the annexation dilute minority representation in government and the legality of annexation, Mr. McGary said.

"My goal is to look at some of these very same questions," he said.

If you go

The last two public meetings:

* 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Brainerd Recreation Center

* 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Carver Recreation Center