Hamilton County district moves leave some feeling loss

Hamilton County district moves leave some feeling loss

July 30th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Deborah Collier doesn't give two shakes about what her Hamilton County commissioner's skin looks like, but she does have other considerations.

"Race does not make any difference," she said. "We have to have somebody concerned and not somebody pretending to be [concerned]."

Collier is president of the Oak Grove Neighborhood Association, which is in commission District 6.

Over the years, she said, she has seen more renters come into the neighborhood who have no ties to the community.

Wednesday, she and other county residents may see changes in who will represent them as the County Commission votes on new county district boundaries. Collier may be losing Commissioner Joe Graham as the boundaries of District 6 shift.

Graham himself is a bit upset.

"I know some of these districts have been shaped with a scalpel," he said, "and mine with a chain saw."

District boundaries at every level of government are adjusted after every decennial census to reflect population growth and shifts. The County Commission has been working on redistricting for several months.

According to new district maps, a large portion of Graham's district will be absorbed into Commissioner Warren Mackey's District 4, and another portion will move into Commissioner Greg Beck's District 5. Graham gains Lookout Mountain, part of North Chattanooga and Red Bank.

Graham, who was elected last August, said he knew the commission had been working on redistricting for quite some time, but he only got a map of the proposed changes a week ago.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said during an agenda meeting Thursday that commissioners have gone "backward and forward" on the issue and no one would ever be happy, but it must be done quickly. Federal law demands it.

"This has to be in place by Jan. 1," he said.

Henry's district also will change, expanding eastward toward the Bradley County line.

Beck said after Thursday's meeting he is pleased with the new lines. He took part in the planning process, he said, and had a chance to make sure minority representation stays intact across the county.

"It keeps that level," he said.

Cynthia Huth, president of the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association, said her neighborhood will be leaving Graham's district and moving into Commissioner Tim Boyd's District 8.

Her neighborhood association held political forums during the last county elections in August and got to know their candidates. Since then they have gotten to know Graham, she said.

"It's not that we don't want to be in East Ridge or Tim Boyd's district," she said. "It's just that's not who we voted for."