The reapportionment process has been marred in the past by heated debate and a yearlong recess following an assault charge in June 2011 in which City Councilman Anthony Coleman pleaded guilty to assaulting City Councilwoman Annette Lewis.
The board voted 6-1 for the new map, with City Councilman Jim King of Ward 6 opposed.
“It splits the ward I was elected to represent,” he said. “It’s stretched out tremendously from one corner to another. It diminishes a neighborhood feel.”
The reapportionment process aims to rebalance the populations of the city’s seven wards with 2010 census data, making each ward ideally 8,083 voters strong, plus or minus 5 percent.
Ward gains and losses will vary from 750 to 2,000 residents, not just voters.
“They want to see how many people you represent,” City Manager Bill Bruton said about legislative bodies which will regulate the maps, starting with the Georgia general assembly and progressing to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Public speakers, however, were unhappy with the proposal, with residents like Charles Levinson agreeing with King.
“It continues to slice and dice southeast Marietta so it doesn’t truly have a ward and a representative of its own,” Levinson said.
The problem drilled down to the Harmony Terrace multifamily residence where he lives.
“The east side is in Ward 5. The west side is in Ward 4,” Levinson said about the proposed map. “Why would you divide up a little bitty apartment complex like that?”
In addition, an African-American population constituting one-third of the city’s residents merited more majority-minority districts than just Ward 5, Levinson said.
“If proportionality is any guide, we should be talking about two African-American wards,” he said.
Noting the new boundaries will affect the next City Council elections in 2013, Levinson called for more action.
“Candidate qualifying is not until August. There is time to rework (the maps),” he said.
Frances Cook agreed with both commenters.
“The map is supposed to bring us closer together, but it’s dividing us,” she said.
Deane Bonner, president of the Cobb County branch of the NAACP, said she will carry the fight to Washington.
“We talked to the Department of Justice because we are going to oppose this map,” she said.
Bonner said a major flaw in the map is Ward 4, which drops from 14 percent African-American residents to 9 percent.
“Stay at 14 or go to 12, but five points is unacceptable,” she said.
City Councilman Johnny Sinclair said mapmakers had to divide the city’s new total of 56,500 residents by seven.
“There was a lot of movement that was necessitated,” he said.
Sinclair said the city has evolved on its own.
“Our neighborhoods have become so much more integrated,” he said. “That made it difficult to draw majority-minority wards.”
City Councilman Grif Chalfant said having two representatives of one neighborhood is not all bad.
“Johnny and I represent several communities together. They seem to be happy to have two different ones they can gripe at all the time,” he said to laughter from the 75 attendees.
City Attorney Doug Haynie said the process is driven by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires a majority-minority ward, and the one-person, one-vote principle.
“There’s nothing scientific about it,” he said. “The City Council cannot split census blocks.”
Major shifts in representation are as follows:
* Ward 1 will gain the Manget area and more Atlanta Road addresses;
* Ward 2 will lose half of Carriage Oaks, Manning Circle, and the Walton senior living communities at Sandtown and Seine;
* Ward 3 will gain Manning Circle, the Mountain View townhouses, Hickory Walk, Rockford Commons, Queensborough Square and Forest Hills, but lose Glover’s Grove, part of Sugar Springs and part of Booth Road;
* Ward 4 will lose a neighborhood at Powder Springs and Lemon streets and a section between Dallas Highway and Burnt Hickory Road;
* Ward 5 is the most stable of the seven wards; it picks up more residents on Roswell Street;
* Ward 6 will lose Franklin Road and gain apartment complexes on Powers Ferry Road; and
* Ward 7 will lose the entire north side of Roswell Road, parts of the area between S. Marietta Parkway and the Wal-Mart shopping center, and flip sides on Franklin Road with Ward 1.