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Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Pittsboro, NC - Since 2006 our commissioner districts have been changed twice. In 2006 the Board of Commissioners (BOC) led by Commissioner Morgan gathered a bi-partisan task force to redraw the districts. A solution was agreed on by the task force and subsequently adopted by the BOC. Newly elected commissioners who came into office later that year were not happy with the new districts and decided they should be changed. Commissioner Lucier worked directly with the county GIS department to develop new districts to propose to the BOC. These new districts were adopted in 2007.
Both of these boards were attempting to construct districts that fairly represented the citizens of Chatham County. Unfortunately, both boards were working with the disadvantage of using out-dated population information from the census of 2000.
Chatham County votes using a system where a candidate must live in a specific district but is voted on by the entire county. Since each candidate is voted on by everyone, having districts with disproportionate populations has not harmed the citizens in any way.
We now have the advantage of current census data with which to construct representative commissioner districts. In looking at the data, it is obvious that new district boundary's are needed. To give you an idea, district 1 has nearly 56% more people than district 5. Whether we choose to employ Commissioner Morgan's approach of using a bi-partisan task force or Commissioner Lucier's approach of working directly with the GIS department, some will think the process has been "politicized". Recognizing this, the majority of the board has decided the best way to proceed is to work directly with the GIS department incorporating input from citizens to develop proposed new districts. The proposed districts will be presented to citizens and a public hearing will be held to receive further input before they are adopted.
Commissioner Petty and I have been working on this for several weeks. We have been guided by input from citizens and comments/concerns from previous redistricting efforts. The information gathered from newspaper sources, on-line sources, and citizen input has helped us develop the principles to work with in the process. Some of those principles are:
Incorporating all of these guidelines to ensure a fair result has been somewhat time consuming but I believe we are very close to having a proposal to present to the citizens. Our tentative schedule is to finalize our proposal no later than May 18th, schedule a public hearing for June 6th, make any necessary adjustments after June 6th then vote during our June 20th meeting.
This tentative schedule will allow more than two weeks for citizens to review prior to the public hearing and then another two weeks after the hearing to provide input before a final vote.
I will keep you posted if that schedule changes.
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