County Commission Makes Last-Minute Redistricting Changes Before Vote Next Tuesday On 11-Member Plan; Sparks Fly Between Sharpe, Smedley

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The County Commission made last-minute redistricting changes to its 11-member plan at a lengthy meeting on Tuesday (moved up from the regular meeting day due to a conference to be attended by some commissioners.)

The commission is expected to pass the plan next Wednesday and send it on to state officials for their approval.

Officials said the completed plan is within deviation standards (not having one or more districts too much larger or smaller than others) and keeps Districts 4 and 5 as majority minority districts.

Changes included crossing a Main Street boundary set earlier to keep the Jefferson Heights neighborhood together and taking a portion of Flat Top Mountain from District 2 (Chip Baker) and giving it to District 1 (Randy Fairbanks). Mr. Fairbanks said he had initially lost Flat Top Mountain, Mowbray Mountain, Falling Water and Northwoods.

He said at a community meeting on Tuesday night that residents of Flat Top Mountain and Mowbray made it clear they wanted to stay in District 1. He said those residents are much more closely tied to Soddy Daisy and Sale Creek than to Signal Mountain. No way was found to restore Mowbray Mountain to the Fairbanks district.

Commissioner Chip Baker wound up getting more residents by reaching across the Tennessee River to take in Elder Mountain. 

Officials earlier had been trying to keep municipalities together and not to have a district crossing the river.

Sparks flew at the regular commission session when Chairman Sabrena Smedley claimed that Commissioner David Sharpe had "bullied and threatened" GIS employees charged with helping draw up the new districts. She said, "They are Hamilton County employees and they should be treated with dignity and respect. You have no right to treat a Hamilton County employee like that."

She said, "That is why I am the point of contact - period - with the GIS." She said Commissioner Sharpe, had apologized to her over the issue. She said, "I called you and confronted you and you apologized because you knew you were guilty.

Commissioner Sharpe said, "My apology was very simply to coddle your ego."

Chairman Smedley responded, "Oh wow."

Commissioner Sharpe said, "The way you have progressed through this entire process has been nothing short of dictatorial old style Boss Hog politics trying to ram a map through without proper consideration. It's unacceptable. It's completely void of transparency no matter how often or loudly you refer to it as transparent does not make it true." 

Chairman Smedley said Hamilton County is "actually behind on the process. Over half of the counties have already turned their map in."

She charged that Commissioner Sharpe and other commissioners had sent late requests "because there is a stalling process in play. I don't know why."

Commissioner Sharpe, asking for a week or more additional time before a vote, said some commissioners were uncomfortable with the lines. He said, "I see no reason why we can't work on consensus on this. There are still many questions to be answered."

Commissioner Tim Boyd called it "the most open redistricting in 50 years." He said, "It is historically the ruling party - and continues to be - the dominant party that cuts the lines in redistricting." He said a total of 12 people attended two redistricting meetings he called, which he said indicated little interest in the topic.

He added, "So I hope the Republican majority on this commission votes to move forward with the 11 districts."

Commissioner Warren Mackey said political parties should not have been brought into the discussion.


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You can win a set of two of the books in the four-volume Chattanooga Photo Series of old Chattanooga photos in a contest sponsored by Chattanoogan.com, publisher of the books. There will be ... (click for more)

The Hamilton County Health Department reported one more coronavirus death on Wednesday and 81 new positive cases, down from 128 on Tuesday. The total number of cases in the county now stands ... (click for more)

Georgia state health officials reported on Wednesday there have been 37 additional deaths due to the coronavirus. The current total is 25,748. There are 1,171 new cases on Wednesday, as that ... (click for more)



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