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City Council, May 24

Council finally adopts a redistricting plan
One district on the Peninsula eliminated
Marc Knapp

If there were any ill feeling carried over from the acrimonious last Council meeting, it was not obvious last night. There were no harsh words, and business was conducted as normal. It was a strong contrast to the meeting of two weeks ago when some Council members volubly protested the Mayor’s action to vote again on a redistricting plan, and were slowly brought to order.

Council Member Gregorie, one of the Council members who protested, spoke glowingly of the effort of staff and others to craft an acceptable redistricting plan and acknowledged that it was not possible given the census data to craft four majority/minority districts. Council member Gallant made a similar acknowledgment and credited Marion Welch of the S.C. Coalition of Voter Participation (CVP) with “making clear that was not clear”. Council member Mallard was uncharacteristically silent.

Since the last Council meeting, there have been a series of public meeting to consider redistricting plans. Staff also prepared Plan D which was essentially Plan C2 with the incorporation of suggestions by Council member Gregorie.

Some of the public meetings were attended by a representative of CVP. This body made a number of suggestions which staff acknowledged as being good and helpful. These and some minor other changes were incorporated into the C2 Plan now called the C2 Final Revised Plan. It was adopted by Council last night with no Council member opposed. Plan D was abandoned as being impractical.

As Tim Keane, Planning, Preservation and Sustainability Director, noted last night, the adopted Plan has three majority/minority Council districts (Districts 3, 4 and 7) and two districts in which minorities have significant representation (District 6 with about 25% and District 9 with 23.9% minority representation). Despite the changes made, all districts have comparable populations and numbers of registered voters with deviations of only about 1%. Mr. Welch addressed Council and noted that the CVP had made suggestions which were incorporated into the plan. He also praised staff for their work and cooperation.

Viewers can see the map of the new districts by pressing Press Download file

As a result of the redistricting, the existing Districts of 3 and 5 are to be merged into one, and called District 3. Council members Lewis and Gallant are the respective incumbents in the existing districts. The other majority/minority districts, 4 and 5, are represented by Council members Mitchell and Waring respectively. The two districts with strong minority representation, 6 and 9, are presently represented by Council members Gregorie and Alexander.

A new District is created in the adopted Plan and will be District 5. It will encompass all of Johns Island and outer parts of West Ashley.

There were many other changes, one of which the transfer of much of the southern part of the Peninsula from District 1 (Council member White) to District 8 (Council member Seekings) Council member White will still represent Ansonborough and the French Quarter as well as Daniel Island.

The new Plan will now go to the US Department of Justice for review and assuming its acceptance, the new districts will be used in the City Council elections in November.

Decision of towing contract deferred to next month
Council was to vote on its new policy relating to City towing contracts last night. But at the request of the Committee of Public Safety Chair, Council member Wilson, a vote was deferred until the next meeting. She wanted time to consider some aspects. This did not sit well with some Council members, and in particular Council member Alexander. He noted that the vote of the Public Safety Committee had been unanimous for rotation. The matter had already been discussed on Council, and the public had already expressed its views. It was time to vote, he said.

There was probably sympathy for Council member Alexander’s view but perhaps out of deference to the Chair of the Committee, all Council members barring Council member Alexander voted to defer.

The issue remains as to whether the City should award contract on a zoning or a rotation basis. The issue was raised by Chief Mullen some months ago who discovered that the agreement with the existing contractors expired in 1997 and had never been renewed. There was also an issue as to whether its “zoning” form was appropriate i.e. two contractors were given separate and exclusive zones of operation. Was it better to have a “rotation” basis whereby a certain number of contractors bid to be included in a roster? They would be awarded a job when their name moved to the top of the roster. It moved to the bottom after they were given a job.

Some towing contractors spoke at the meeting last night and asked that the rotational system be adopted. They spoke of competition and the opportunities for small operators. A representative of AAA had a different view and warned of the inadequate resources of many small operators and the problems that could ensue. The small contractors did not invest in the full range of necessary equipment and could not handle all towing jobs. He specifically noted that small companies may not be able to provide a 24 hour service to give tourists and others the ability to recover their towed cars.

We expect Council to support the Committee’s recommendation when it meets again next month. We also expect that there will be high but reasonable hurdles that towing companies will need to jump to be included on any roster.

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