Mobile city officials will consider a third redistricting map within the next two weeks and before the August 12 date, when the issue that has garnered a lot of attention at Government Plaza will end.
Maps will likely be discussed on Tuesday. A vote on a final proposal is scheduled for August 9.
But it remains to be seen whether the new card will pass the five-vote supermajority. If no map proposal gets five of seven council members to support it, a map introduced earlier this year by Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration automatically takes effect.
At least one city councilor said he was surprised a new map would surface less than two weeks before the mapping deadline.
“The doesn’t give this map a lot of time to be reviewed by concerned citizens or city council members, which has been a major complaint all along from those who have come forward to voice their opposition to the map. of the mayor, who had the most complete transparency and verification of all the cards presented at this point, ”said Councilman Scott Jones.
The biggest question in the ongoing debate over the future of Mobile Council Districts is what the racial demographics of Council District 7 will look like in the final version.
Mobile, a majority black city, currently has a council of four white and three black members.
According to Stimpson’s map, presented in February, District 7 would become a majority-minority district with 50.6% registered black voters.
That figure was long considered too low for Councilor William Carroll and a host of black community activists and pastors. In April, another redistricting map surfaced, raising District 7’s black representation to 53%.
The most recent map has the voting-age black population of District 7 at 53.3% black and 41.2% white.
District 7 has long been represented by Councilwoman Gina Gregory, who is white.
The biggest changes between the new map and the map introduced in April involve some movement with a handful of districts. For example, the village of Spring Hill – splintered on the Community Coalition map – would remain mostly intact in the new version.
Two of the new board members – Ben Reynolds and Cory Penn – said Monday they support the third card and see it as a compromise. They said neither the community coalition map nor the one presented by Stimpson had enough support to be approved.
“It gives the opportunity to hear the needs and wants of the community and to work together (on a compromise),” Penn said.
Reynolds said, “What’s important to me is that we have consensus on a plan and not just stick to the mayor’s plan because we couldn’t come to a consensus. As this thing unfolded, it became pretty clear to me that there is no consensus for the mayor’s plan and for the community’s plan.
Jason Johnson, a spokesman for Stimpson’s administration, said city staff were working with council to help them create a map, but the process was led by council members.
“The administration supports the council’s ongoing efforts to develop an ongoing map-based contribution from its members and the community,” he said. “There are several maps the board needs to review ahead of its August 9 meeting, and we stand ready to help in any way we can.”
The “Stand Up Mobile” organization, in a press release Monday, said it supports the Third Map that maintains a 53% black Fourth District.
The organization, in a statement, said it was important that a final map be approved without “conditions attached” to an annexation proposal. The Stimpson administration plans to introduce a proposal to annex about 26,000 residents in the city of Mobile, but only after the redistricting process is complete.
An annexation plan, if passed by voters in a special election, would likely force the city to reconsider any redistricting plan passed.
Jones said he would abstain on a redistricting vote unless it coincides with an annexation plan. However, that seems unlikely.
“I have also stated that I am completely for the 53% of District 7, but that should only happen when we have assurances from my colleagues who are pushing for this that they will unconditionally support the annexation plan. that’s on the table,” Jones said. “So far, I have not heard this statement.”
Stimpson’s annexation plan has been presented to council members but has not yet been made public, and Johnson said there are no immediate plans to do so.
“We are still working on the proposed maps and plan,” Johnson said. “We have discussed some initial work products with the board to receive their feedback and direction. There is still a lot of work to do before we can come up with anything. We can say with certainty that nothing will be released until we go through the redistricting.
Reynolds said any annexation plan will force residents to vote before it can even happen. A previous annexation plan was never put to voters for consideration as it was rejected by the council in 2019.
“It’s about giving people the right to vote,” he said. “When you make that decision, there has to be a good lead for us to be successful or to be sure we’re doing the right thing.”
Reynolds said he believed the redistricting blocked annexation.
“We had hoped to see an annexation plan sooner,” he said. “We were hoping it would have been introduced sooner.”
Mobile’s redistricting plan has been closely watched for months, with groups of pastors coming to council meetings for months and imploring members to ensure Mobile has a majority black council.
The council has long been a 4-3 white majority.
Mobile’s population, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, is 184,041 and a growing black majority. According to census data, Mobile has lost 10,570 white residents since 2010. The city’s black population has also shrunk, to 2,697.
The city’s demographics in 2010 were 50.4% black and 45.4% white. That split has increased to 51% black, 40% white, according to 2020 census figures.