On Wednesday, the Council approved conducting public hearings on the map proposal in a 6-1 vote, with Ward 6 Councilman Jim King opposed.
“We’ve been working on this map for about a year,” redistricting committee member Ward 5 City Councilman Anthony Coleman said before Wednesday night’s meeting. “It’s been a long, lengthy process. It looks like we’ve come to a consensus.”
Coleman said the process has been more laborious than the last time the city had to go through it.
“A lot of public housing was torn down, and those numbers had to be made up,” he said.
Ward 3 City Councilman Johnny Sinclair, chair of the Council’s three-person redistricting committee, which also included Ward 1 City Councilwoman Annette Lewis, said the map came down to the Manget area, located between Roswell and Fairground streets and the South Loop.
Currently, the Manget area is split between Wards 1 and 5, but under the proposed map will be in Ward 1.
The only major change in the new map that Sinclair pointed out is the division between Wards 1 and 5.
“What we want to do is keep the lines as clean as possible,” he said. “So everything below Roswell Street is in Ward 1, and pretty much, everything above it is in Ward 5.”
Mayor Steve Tumlin said the 1965 Voting Rights Act requires a majority-black ward, which Sinclair said was covered with 50.56 percent African-American population in Ward 5.
The ward is represented by Coleman, an African-American.
Sinclair said previous public hearings included attendees who wanted to debate the act, which he said was not the purpose of the meetings.
“We wanted to stay out of that battle because there’s nothing we can do to change that,” he said.
King, however, wanted to battle the results as they related to his jurisdiction, which he said had an identity crisis under the new map.
“Most of you have nice clean contiguous boundaries. As a citizen of Ward 6, what I’m looking at is something scattered all over the place that doesn’t have a neighborhood feel to it,” he said. “It goes back to the zonings and the annexations that have occurred over the years. What my ward suffers from is a sense of identity.”
King said there were county “pockets” that the map compounded, making him feel “split apart.”
“I was hoping for something more compact, more joined together, that we could put our arms around,” he said. “The people I represent, I lost half of them in this move.”
Under the proposed map, Ward 1 gains about 1,500 residents, Ward 2 loses about 2,000 and Ward 3 gains about 1,500. Ward 4 shrinks by about 1,700 residents, Ward 5 grows by 900 residents, Ward 6 loses about 900 residents and Ward 7 gains about 750.
Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the map at public hearings on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12. Feedback from those hearings may influence the map’s final form before it is submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, Sinclair said.
The redistricting process has included one Councilman receiving probation for attacking another member. Coleman pleaded guilty June 6 to a charge of assaulting Lewis.
Coleman was arrested on Dec. 2 on simple battery and assault charges stemming from an incident with Lewis on Sept. 22, 2011.
On Sept. 22, 2011, Coleman and Lewis argued after the city redistricting committee, at which Lewis presented a redistricting map that created the federally required majority-black ward on the southern edge of town, away from both Coleman’s north-central Ward 5 and his home, which could have cost Coleman his seat on the Council.
While walking to the parking lot from City Hall after that night’s meeting, Coleman allegedly cursed at Lewis and placed his hands on her, leaving a bruise on her shoulder.
The matter brought the city’s redistricting work to a halt.
In other business, the Council approved buying properties on Hedges Street and West Dixie Avenue from their current owner, the Marietta Redevelopment Corp., in a 7-0 vote.
Sinclair said before the meeting that while the corporation has a relationship with the city, it is a separate entity requiring a sale of property rather than asset transfer.
The city will spend $100,000 for the four properties, paid for out of the city’s parks bond.
“There’s a park the lots are adjacent to. I’ll be able to add to it,” said Sinclair, who chairs the City Council’s parks, recreation and tourism committee. “It will not quite double its size.”
He said the city paid a good price.
“In this economy, you can buy land cheap. $25,000 (per property) is radically lower than the MRC paid, but it’s at market value to me,” Sinclair said.
The Journal reported on Sept. 27 that the MRC paid $300,000 for the four lots.
The Council also approved a weekly food truck gathering and extended the Marietta Square Farmers Market’s season to just before Christmas.
On Mondays, up to 10 food trucks will open for business from 5 to 9 p.m. in the parking lot of Walton Communities’ 12-acre Meeting Park near Marietta Square, which Sinclair said will attract gourmets.
“The food trucks are a phenomenon that’s become very popular in metro Atlanta. They are nice restaurants that are mobile. They’re not selling corn dogs. They sell neat food,” Sinclair said. “They set up in an area. It’s fun to hang out. They may have some music there.”
Sinclair said local restaurant owners didn’t have a problem with the proposal.
“Everyone I talked to on the Square said it continues to make the Square a destination for people who want great restaurants and want to be part of a scene,” he said. “Plus, it’s on a Monday night. That’s not a big restaurant night.”
The weekly event by the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, headed by Westside Creamery’s Greg Smith, will use the parking lot of Meeting Park, which is slated for redevelopment.
He said the inaugural event, which may be Oct. 15, is on his calendar.
“I plan on being there for the first event,” Sinclair said.
The Council also allowed the farmers market to be open from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays between Nov. 24 and Dec. 22.
“We typically stop on the weekend before Thanksgiving,” said Johnny Fulmer, who runs the market. “We had a lot of vendors ask if we can keep it going. We asked the City Council to extend it to the weekend before Christmas.”
The group of 60-plus Saturday vendors will be the same fruit, vegetable and baked goods vendors, Fulmer said, with one exception.
“We hope to have live wreaths,” he said.