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Atlanta City Council to hold redistricting hearings amid pressure for public input

A map of Atlanta with a slider shows how city council districts would change under new proposed city council maps. Districts aren't changing too much, though parts of Oakland City, Midtown, south Buckhead, Candler Park and Grove Park would see changes with the new districts.

A map of the proposed Atlanta City Council districts as of Sept. 23. (Map by Maggie Lee)

By John Ruch

The Atlanta City Council has scheduled two hearings on Sept. 29 for its redistricting amid pressure for more public input.

The council’s 12 local districts must be redrawn this year to have roughly equal populations following the new 2020 U.S. Census data. Besides the district councilmembers, the council also has a president and three at-large councilmembers who represent the entire city.

Basically, where population grew, districts must shrink, and where population shrunk, districts must grow. The new districts must be in place for the next general election in 2025.

Earlier this month, the council unveiled a proposed redistricting map that included many changes. Among the big territory swaps are between Districts 6 and 7 in Northeast Atlanta and Buckhead, and between Districts 9 and 10 in Northwest and Southwest Atlanta.

The council redistricting is automatically an Atlanta Board of Education redistricting as well. Under the school board’s charter, each of its six local districts is drawn to match pairs of adjacent City Council districts. For example, the school board’s District 6 is the same area as the council’s Districts 11 and 12.

The council legislation for the redistricting process filed earlier this year called for public input meetings and other hearings, but the proposed map popped out without those, raising concerns about lack of input. That led to the calling of the Sept. 29 hearings. And more could be coming, as District 10 City Councilmember Andrea Boone’s office says, “Dates for future public information sessions will be determined during the public hearings.”

Some input concerns were aired at a Sept. 19 meeting of the council’s Committee on Council, which Boone chairs. The Atlanta Planning Advisory Board, an umbrella board of Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU), sent a letter calling for at least two public hearings and expressing concern about the lack of information, as read aloud by Corresponding Secretary Lora Hawk.

Kyle Lamont, vice-chair of Southwest Atlanta’s NPU-S and also known as a board member of the Development Authority of Fulton County, was among other residents expressing concerns.  “Maps are not supposed to be done in political fashion, but if they are not done with public input, how can you say the contrary?” he asked.

Amber Robinson, a City attorney, told the committee that the legal requirements include three readings before the council, one of which already happened with the introduction of the proposed map. The next two readings could come in October council meetings, with adoption at the final meeting. Those regular council meetings legally could count as the public input requirement, she said.

The committee voted unanimously to hold the redistricting plan.

Boone later told SaportaReport in a written statement that following the process and getting public input are both important.  “We must follow the law,” she said. “Our legal department has been working diligently to assist us in this undertaking. Our constituents will have an opportunity to provide feedback. Together, I’m confident we will make the best decision for the future of our beloved city.”

Boone also emphasized the political importance of redistricting. “Redistricting can impact everything from elections and the passage of legislation to special funding for important projects within our respective communities,” she said. “To put it simply, redistricting is about you, your ballot and your vote. I want to make sure your voice is heard.”

The public hearings are scheduled for Sept. 29 at noon and 6 p.m. at City Hall, 55 Trinity Ave.

Maps by Maggie Lee. Download the proposed district map as a zipped shapefile. Source: Atlanta Department of City Planning. 

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