By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
PUTNAM COUNTY – Concerns over representation were a major focus of discussion when the Putnam County Redistricting Committee met this week to continue efforts to balance districts using the new 2020 Census numbers.
The committee spent the majority of their meeting discussing a seven-district plan that would include three commissioners from each district, reducing the number on the county commission from 24 to 21, and theoretically reducing the likelihood of a tie vote on contested issues.
“When you go seven districts, you’re adding a lot of land mass to a district, so if y’all have other ideas we can work on it,” said CTAS Consultant and County Commissioner Ben Rodgers. “This was our best effort with six hours work.”
Under the seven-district plan, each district would represent 11,400 county residents with three commissioners, or 3,300-3,400 people per commissioner according to Rodgers.
The eastern portion of the county, which includes Monterey and Cumberland Cove, has not seen the big gain in population that some areas of the county has experienced. This means that the 4th District will have to be expanded by moving adjacent census blocks into the district until the district has close to the same number of residents as the other districts. This is necessary in both the seven-district and 12-district plans.
A concern among the commissioners was that the seven-district plan puts both Algood and Monterey in the same district potentially taking political power from the Monterey-vicinity.
Discussing the 12-district plan, Commissioner Jonathan Williams expressed a concern that District 4 has traditionally been referred to as “the Monterey District,” and is now so big geographically that there is a good chance that two commissioners could be elected that do not live close to Monterey or have anything to do with Monterey.
Williams asked to have a discussion that the commission split District-4 into two one-commissioner districts, ensuring that one comes from close to Monterey – basically establishing a Top and bottom district. He stated that was a legal option to be considered.
No vote was taken on the discussion of a split district at that time.
Commissioners asked to see large maps representing both plans prior to making a recommendation to the Commission as a whole.
The committee will meet again on Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. to continue discussions and to choose final options for the Commission to vote on at its November meeting before sending it to the state for approval.
The first day to pick up petitions for next year’s May 3 primary is Dec. 20.