Photo Credit: HamiltonCountyTN / YouTube
During the Hamilton County Commission meeting on September 22, 2021, concerns were raised that the current demo maps of county redistricting do not provide for a continuity of neighborhoods within the county.
District 6 Commissioner David Sharpe first raised the issue of continuity of neighborhoods by stating that this issue is potentially even more important than the requirements laid down by the law.
Sharpe also expressed that redistricting decisions should follow the same general guidelines as a tax increase would, with at least two votes and significant public input.
District 9 Commissioner Steve Highlander stated that he agreed with Sharpe on that point.
“We’re looking at the Nine Scale and we’re moving Birchwood/Georgetown into District 1. That is definitely not a continuity of communities,” Highlander said.
District 7 Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, who also serves as the Chair said, “It really gave me heartburn looking at the district map…and breaking up District 9 and shifting them across the river.”
For redistricting, it is required by law that each district has an equal number of voters. The Commissioners were given two demo maps to review. One had the county divided into nine districts and the other into ten.
District 2 Commissioner Chip Baker expressed that if they are sticking with nine districts and taking continuity of communities into account, significant changes would have to be made to the current map demo to allow for that.
District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey voiced that he is not in favor of adding an extra district to the county.
“Right out of hand, looking at ten districts, I don’t think it would be viable because of obvious reasons,” Mackey said.
He went on to explain that without having an odd number of commissioners, voting would be made more difficult due to a lack of tie-breaker vote.
District 3 Commissioner Greg Martin said, “I kind of like the idea of an odd number,” but he went on to state that with a split-5 vote, it would be similar to when the Commission votes when one member is absent, explaining that itself would not be a real issue.
District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd voiced his support for sticking to the current Nine District layout of the county.
“I don’t see why we should change something that has been working really well,” Boyd said.
Following more conversation, the Commission focused on laying out a plan for moving forward to reach the point of resolution for the redistricting of the county.
District 5 Commissioner Katherlyn Geter said, “This process is very impactful to each person that’s here and each person that’s in Hamilton County and we have to get it right. That means that we have to communicate clearly what this process will be and in that process how does the public engage with us…until we get to that final map in terms of how our districts are outlined.”
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Smedley stated that she does not know how long it will take to reach the final map but they are under a strict timeline from the state. The resolution must be passed and voted on by December 1st, 2021.
For public engagement, Chair Smedley stated that at the end of each meeting anyone who wants to speak will be invited to speak in 3-minute segments.
The Commission voted to have redistricting meetings to follow regular Commission meetings on Wednesdays until the final redistricting map is decided upon.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com