The Waveland Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday adopted a new redistricting map. 

The city voted to accept the new ward map named “Redistricting Plan April 20, 2022.” 

Earlier in the month, the board heard a presentation from Butler Snow attorney Parker Berry about the redistricting process and Waveland’s 2020 census results. 

According to the 2020 census, Waveland’s total population is 7,201, Berry said, and the ideal population — divided by four — is 1,803 people. The goal is to get roughly within the plus-or-minus-five percent leeway, 1,800 in each of Waveland’s four wards.

Last Wednesday, the board hosted a preliminary hearing where the two maps were presented.

The maps were completed by the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District and the Gulf Regional Planning Commission. 

Prior to Wednesday’s vote on the matter, the board heard from the public. 

Waveland resident Clarence Harris, who lives in Ward 2, expressed concerns about the maps. 

“Last Monday, I was invited to come to the city to review the maps,” he said. “Five people came. We had the original and Map A (Redistricting Plan April 20, 2022) we didn’t have the alternate (Redistricting Plan April 20, 2022 Alternative 1). Two days later at the meeting, we had alternate one. The problem that I really have with this is that I was invited to come and look at these maps, no one was there to answer questions or to guide us in any kind of way.”

Harris said that the second map, which is Alternative 1, had the “blacks moved around with the numbers.” 

“Everybody in this room pretty much knows that Ward 2 is probably the only ward that a minority would run in,” he said. “We understand that, we know that. To move 133 minorities from Two (ward) to One (ward) on the second map to get a larger white population in Two, I think it’s gerrymandering and I think that I never thought I would stand up here at this time and see this kind of tactics taking place.” 

Harris said that both maps should have been made available to the public prior to last week’s meeting. 

Ward 2 Alderman Bobby Richardson explained the reasoning behind the creation of the alternate map. 

“I don’t look at the numbers, black, white, Hispanic, whatever” Richardson said. “I was looking at my Emerald Lake. All that area that I’m giving up, I’m giving up a lot of supporters actually, and I don’t care if they’re black, white, green, I’m still gonna work for who I’m gonna work for. It’s just I didn’t want to take across the highway and give up my Emerald Lake and the beach area too.” 

Harris said he understood that. He said that maybe it “just so happened” that Ward 2 went from “24 percent minorities to 17 percent minorities.” 

“Maybe that’s just a coincidence,” Harris said. “Maybe we got caught up into that.” 

City attorney Malcolm Jones gave an explanation of his understanding as to how the alternate map came to be. 

He said that Richardson and Ward 3 Alderman Shane LaFontaine reviewed maps with Berry and representatives from SMPDD and GRPC. 

“It appeared they had consensus on Map A on Thursday, but by Tuesday (April 19), Mr. Richardson had continued to review the maps over the weekend and he contacted me and said that he did not realize that he was giving up the area of Emerald Lake and so he wanted to make changes,” Jones said. 

Jones said that Richardson contacted Berry and representatives from SMPDD and GRPC who then created the alternate map. 

“That was the first time it was brought forward and that was at the meeting,” he said. “There was no intent on the part of the aldermen or the mayor to try to deceive anybody, but Mr. Richardson wanted to have a different option to vote and so he had the right to ask for it. This board can either vote for the alternate map that he came up with or they can decide to stick with the original map, which is the ‘A’ map. A lot of work went into creating map number ‘A’ to make sure that it would have the least amount of impact on minorities in your ward and throughout the city. But again, every time you move the blocks around when you’re doing this, it has a major impact where once you change one thing, then it has an impact on the other side, as well. So it’s a very difficult task to do.” 

Richardson said he had “no intent.” 

“Just to make this easier and simpler, we’re going to go with this map (A) right here because I had no intent of trying to gerry rig anything,” Richardson said. “I don’t care what the ethnics of the city, I’m still going to do my job for whoever I work for.” 

Waveland resident Karen Singleton also spoke to the board and asked why the public wasn’t notified of the alternate map when it was completed.

Jones said the alternate map was created on the same day it was presented at the April 20 board meeting. 

“It wasn’t created before that,” he said. 

Jones added that he had complained to the GRPC about “having a map available to the public to see.” 

“That was the whole reason to go ahead and give additional time for people to come forward and have comments about it,” Jones said. “A lot of effort went in to ensure there was no dilution or adverse impact on the minority population voting. I think Mr. Richardson now sees that what he did, with no intent to cause any problems, caused a lot of problems.” 

Singleton said that going forward, there needs to be a better line of communication between the city and residents. 

Harris said that the people who sit on the board have the final say on the maps.

“In my mind, that’s a bad thing, because if I’m designing something, I’m going to to keep it where I can have the advantage,” Harris said. “We ought to have a good citizens group to look over this, then the aldermen can look over it and we can all agree on it. But to have the aldermen have the advantage over citizens and say ‘I don’t want this line moved because I’m going to lose some votes and I’m going to lose some supporters.’ We’re going to always be in the thing, because anybody that’s elected up here, you’re pretty much controlling whether you stay in office or whether you don’t stay in, because you are the ones who put your lines where you want them to be.” 

Richardson said that it is not his intention to deny someone the right to vote. 

“Because I didn’t even look at the numbers of the black, white, Hispanic, I just looked at the area,” he said. “I didn’t really care about numbers.” 

The board unanimously approved Redistricting Plan April 20, 2022, referred to as ‘Map A’ throughout Monday’s meeting. 

The new numbers for each ward as follow: In Ward 1, the population is 1,796, which is seven or .39 percent below the ideal population number. In Ward 2, the population is 1,911 which is 108 or 5.99 percent above the ideal population number. In Ward 3, the population is 1,594, which is 209 or 11.59 percent below the ideal population number. In Ward 4, the population is 1,909, which is 106 or 5.88 percent above the ideal population number.

The population by race is as follows: Ward 1 is 85.03 percent white; 5.92 percent black; and 4.45 percent Hispanic. Ward 2 is 64.87 percent white; 24.48 percent black; and 4.09 percent Hispanic. Ward 3 is 68.49 percent white; 21.3 percent black; and 4.18 percent Hispanic. Ward 4 is 80.94 percent white; 9.04 percent black, and 5.07 percent Hispanic.

Jones said he will have the ward lines set up to match the new map and an ordinance ready for adoption at the next regular meeting schedule for May 3, at 6:30 p.m. 

The reason for the rush is due to the delay of the Census data, Berry told the board last week.

He said the city engaged the services back in December.

“The data was delayed six months by the U.S. Census Bureau,” Berry told the board at last week’s hearing. “The official data didn’t come out until September. And as everybody knows, there’s a process to do this because you’re dealing with a lot of opinions, there’s a lot of legal requirements and there’s a lot of iterations and drafts that go in to try and develop to this point where you have two options to consider. It’s also a product of the city being a special chartered city where you have regular elections this year, where most cities, they had their elections last year, so they have considerable amount more time. And counties are next year, so they’re actually under the gun, too. But certainly Waveland and a handful of other chartered cities have elections this year.”

(1) comment

wavelandlarry

So, you work on the redistricting map for months, with the help of experts from outside the community, and at the end of the day you end up with one district that is NOWHERE NEAR the ideal population of 1800, and not even close to the +/- 5% mark! Wow.

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