Redistricting proposal for Fulton County’s board of commissioners creates new district, cuts at-large post

By David Pendered

The long-awaited redistricting map to be proposed for Fulton County’s board of commissioners was introduced Friday, and it contains at least two major changes in Fulton’s form of government – while keeping a seven-member board.

Proposed districts, Fulton County's board of commissioner. Credit: Ga. Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

Proposed districts, Fulton County’s board of commissioner. Credit: Ga. Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

One new district would be created in northwest Fulton, and one countywide post would be eliminated, under the plan introduced by Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), who chairs the Fulton County delegation.

The proposal calls for elections under the new district boundaries to be held during the general election of 2014, according to House Bill 171.

Here’s how the districts appear in the proposal:

  • District 1: North Fulton, north of the Chattahoochee River, east of Ga. 400;
  • District 2: North Fulton, north of the Chattahoochee River, west of Ga. 400;
  • District 3: Sandy Springs to 10th Street in Atlanta;
  • District 4: Downtown Atlanta, westside Atlanta, toward West End;
  • District 5: East Point, Greenbriar area;
  • District 6: Fulton Industrial Boulevard, Fairburn Palmetto areas;
  • District 7: Countywide.

The incumbent in the post to be eliminated is Commissioner Robb Pitts.

The proposal instructs the county to have its lawyers submit the bill, if approved, to the federal Department of Justice for pre-clearance under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The federal law was enacted to protect the voting rights of minorities.

Current districts of Fulton County's board of commissioners. Credit: fultoncountyga.gov

Current districts of Fulton County’s board of commissioners. Credit: fultoncountyga.gov

Riley has scheduled a delegation meeting Feb. 7 to discuss the proposal. Details of that event will be available next week.

The region to be served by the proposed new district now is served by two district commissioners.

The presumption is that such a map would tip the balance of power squarely toward the Republicans.

Fulton County’s board has been fractious for decades. The vote tally on controversial measures historically has been 4-3, with Democrats in the majority.

For years, one or more Democrats would pivot out of the majority caucus into the role of deal-maker – voting with Republicans on matters of import to them in apparent exchange for support for unrelated legislation.

Those exchanges may have become less obvious in recent years. One reason may be that most of the county has been incorporated as cities – resulting in a reduced reliance on county services. Portions of southwest Fulton are the only areas not within the boundaries of a city.

But those heated exchanges still arise on emotional issues such as health care for indigents and those with mental health issues, library services, and an array of social services for groups including the elderly.

The chairman’s seat would be named District 7. Duties and powers of the office, as outlined in HB 171, include:

  • Preside over commission meetings;
  • Serve as spokesman for the board of commissioners;
  • Sign all official papers, as instructed by board action or county policy;
  • Appoint board members to committees, and make other appointments as authorized by board action or policy;
  • Perform other duties as authorized by board action.

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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