Chattanooga likely will be keeping only three majority black political districts when the City Council draws new lines before the end of the year.
When the current lines were drawn after the 2000 U.S. census, the city's majority black districts were 5, 7, 8 and 9.
Based on preliminary plans unveiled Tuesday night, the next decade's majority black districts might be 5, 7 and 9. The plan would leave District 8 with a majority of minorities, though no longer a majority of blacks, said Councilman Peter Murphy, who is chairman of the committee tasked with drawing the new map.
Every decade, the city must redraw political districts based in part on population shifts and minority percentages. A map based on 2010 census figures is due to the state by Jan. 1.
Since 2000, downtown areas in District 8 have become more white, making it difficult to draw that district as majority black, said Councilman Peter Murphy.
"[District 8] would have to be gerrymandered in a way that looks pretty bad on a map," he said.
Joe Rowe, the local NAACP's first vice president for political affairs, agreed with Murphy's statement in a phone interview after the meeting.
Though District 7 had more than 50 percent black population based on the 2000 census, less than 50 percent were old enough to vote, Rowe said. Last week, Rowe asked the city to consider the number of voting-age black people when drawing the lines this time.
Drawing a majority black District 7 would be easier than drawing a majority black District 8, he said.
"After doing all the math he asked us to do, we're in the same place we were before," said Murphy, who set a goal of giving a new district plan to the full council by Thanksgiving.
Murphy twice requested public input Tuesday night, but no one stepped forward to speak.
Rowe, who could not attend Tuesday night's meeting, said he doesn't know why council members waited until now to begin the redistricting process.
"It's depressing to see this process in the 11th hour," Rowe said.