Attorneys Say Increasing Both The County Commission And School Board From 9 To 11 Districts May Require Legislative Action

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Attorneys said Tuesday that changing both the County Commission and the School Board from nine to 11 districts may require action of the state Legislature.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor and School Board attorney Scott Bennett said there is no problem increasing the commission districts, but the number of Hamilton County School Board members was set at nine in a 1993 private act that would need to be updated.

The County Commission, which has the authority to draw the districts for both the commission and school board, met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the issue with the School Board and to get inpt.

The commission has indicated it may take a final vote on the 11 districts on Nov. 2 after another workshop this Wednesday.

Commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley said the move to 11 districts is brought on by growth in the county, which has reached 366,000 residents. She said with 11 districts, each representative would have about 33,000 residents.

She said steps were taken at the start to insure that there remain two districts with majority black population - Districts 4 and 5.

Officials said if the school board keeps nine districts those are going to need to be redrawn to reflect new growth. 

Scott Allen, election administrator, said having different districts for commission and school board members could cause problems and confusion at the polls. He said redrawing the nine school board districts could leave some districts separated by the Tennessee River and other barriers.

School Board Chairman Tucker McClendon said he was leaning toward favoring nine districts. He said the board is in the middle of selecting a new school superintendent and candidates could be dismayed to find they have 11 bosses instead of nine. He said, "I have a little bit of concern that it could affect our candidate pool."

Board member Karitsa Mosely Jones, as well as Commissioner Katherlyn Geter, said they had been hearing a number of complaints about "dilution" of black votes. Ms. Jones said one majority black section in the south part of the county was being combined with Lookout Valley and Lookout Mountain.

Commissioner Geter said, "That is voter suppression."

Commissioner Greg Martin said with the population shifts over the past 10 years that only District 5 was still majority black at 55.96 percent. He said District 4 had dropped to 48.92 percent black. He said the new 11-member plan again brings up the number of blacks in District 4.

Board member James Walker said having 11 similar districts for both groups "makes all the sense in the world."

 

 

 

 


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