Thursday, June 2, 2011

City Candidates Still Waiting to Find out What District Lines Are

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 6:18 AM

Bloggeer/Would-Be Councilman Steve Ross
  • JB
  • Bloggeer/Would-Be Councilman Steve Ross
The impasse in city budget negotiations is keeping another matter, that of redistricting of City Council districts, on the back burner.

Municipal elections are scheduled for October 6. The filing deadline for them is July 21, with a withdrawal deadline of a week later. And potential candidates, like blogger Steve Ross of, who is contemplating a run for a Council seat, are complaining that the Council has been unreasonably tardy in redrawing district lines.

The 2010 census information for Shelby County, which would provide the basis for redistricting, has been available since March 16, Ross notes on his blog. He points out that his residence, as of now, is at a point close to several existing district lines and that, with less than two months to go before showtime, his preparations for organizing a campaign are hampered by not knowing where that campaign is to be run.

Ross, who addressed the council on the subject some weeks ago, says he was gven no guidelines by Council attorney Allan Wade, who, however, promised more information next week, at the Council’s June 6th meeting.

From Ross’ blog: “Certainly, there are difficult decisions to be made and stringent rules that must be followed. The consent decree that governs the drawing of districts in Memphis has very particular guidelines. From my perspective, these rules are one of the most important reasons there must be public scrutiny of the process, never-mind the whole notion of “open government” itself.

“For me, the issue is less about “why hasn’t this been done” than “why isn’t more information available about this”. Because, aside from an ordinance on third reading, there is nothing. No maps, no information, nothing. And my attempts to find out more about this process have yielded very little concrete information, calling the process into question, which is concerning to a person, like myself, who believes that the public’s trust in government comes not from the officials, but from the easy availability of information.”
Ross got some moral support this week from Council member Jim Strickland. “ I think Steve is justifiably concerned that the districts have not been set, and we’re only seven weeks prior to filing deadline,” said Strickland, who added, “ I’ve spoken to Allen Wade, and he has a problem matching the census figures with the precinct.”

The councilman (a candidate for reelection in District 5, after all) said he, too, hoped the matter could be expedited.

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