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Lowndes Supervisors Approve Redistricting Plan at Tuesday Meeting in 4-1 Vote

Dist. 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith Abstains, Then Changes Vote to Approve

by Ron Williams

 

 

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-1 (Leroy Brooks opposed) to approve a redistricting plan to submit to the Justice Department. The plan is a modified version of the Alternate 1 plan that Brooks said was “totally unacceptable” during last weeks board meeting. The modified plan does raise the District 5 black VAP (voting age population) an additional seven-tenths of a percentage point over the original plan by moving some current white District 5 voters into District 2. On Friday during a workshop redistricting meeting at the Administrative offices on Main, Brooks submitted his own plan that would have raised his black VAP (voting age population) to 70% in District 5, but quite drastically reducing District 4’s black VAP. Two other plans submitted by Chris Watson (Bridge and Watson Consultants, Oxford) never received much favor from the supervisors. Those plans raised District 5’s black VAP to near 65% or over, while taking a percentage of black voters from each of the other 4 districts. The plan must meet Justice Department approval and they will be taking input from the black community in doing so. Brooks is opposed to the plan because he says it dilutes black VAP in District 5.

District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith initially abstained when the vote was taken originally, but then later changed his vote because he said, “it would be totally irresponsible of me to not vote one way or the other on this particular plan. I’d like to withdraw my original abstention and vote in favor of Plan 1-A.”

(I spoke with District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks Wednesday night. I asked him if he intended to file suit or submit his own proposed plan to the Justice Department. He said, in speaking with an attorney, it wasn’t as simple as just submitting his own plan to the JD. Brooks said he hoped to know something by Friday. He did say that he believes the approved plan by the supervisors will, “collapse on its face.”)

“It’s not a fair plan” said Leroy. “It splits up Union (precinct). There are basic flaws in the process. It’s about principle”, he added.

 

Supes Appoint Scott Colom as Interim Justice Court Judge

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Colom Will Be First Sitting Black Justice Judge In Lowndes County

 

In other supervisor business Tuesday, the board chose attorney Scott Colom to fill the unexpired term of Mike Arledge, who stepped down to run for sheriff. The 28 year old Colom will be the first sitting black justice court judge to serve in Lowndes County. The supervisors used the nomination process to choose between 5 applicants. Colom was one of two applicants who was not running for a justice judge seat. The supervisors had previously agreed to not appoint anyone who was running for a seat, which eliminated three applicants, Ron Cooke, Monique Montgomery and Ted Richards. The other applicant was Bill Andrews, who was favored by District 3 Supervisor John Holliman and District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson. District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders voted along with District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith and District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks to appoint Colom to the position. Sanders justified his vote by contending that Colom’s lawyer status qualified him over Andrews, who had no experience as an attorney or in the justice court system. (In defense of Sanders, he has long maintained that he feels attorney’s make better justice court judges. While I’ll always be against making it a requirement to be a justice judge, it’s true that it certainly helps speed up the process of understanding what is expected of a judge, as well as fulfilling the required 30 hours of class training the judges must go through. Attorney’s have those same requirements. Colom is obviously well qualified to fill the position. RW)

 

House Speaker Billy McCoy Takes Bold Stand Against Senate

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He Says He’ll Send Plan To Justice Department Without Senate Approval

 

State Representative Jeff Smith says it’s been some kind of week at the State Capital in Jackson. He said that the House of Representatives passed a plan redistricting the House district lines and sent it to the Senate last week (The two bodies must approve each others plans). Late last week and on Monday, the Senate killed the House plan and sent back to the House a plan which redistricted the Senate, but did nothing to the House. The House, in turn, passed the Senate redistricting plan but added the original House plan (the one the Senate previously killed) by Amendment back to the Senate (political football).

Smith said that the House original plan and the Senate plan are very much similar. In fact, he says, the author of the Republican plan freely stated that his group had taken the original House plan and ‘tweaked’ it. The main difference, says Smith, is the Republican plan has 42 majority-minority districts, while the original House plan had 44 such districts. (District 39 State Representative Gary Chism – R says that the Delta lost 45,000 people yet did not lose a seat. RW).

Smith said the vote was taken and the Republican plan was voted for first and it failed on a 67 to 54 vote. It having failed, he said the original House plan was then voted on and upon being voted on it passed 66 to 55. Then the entire Legislation was voted on (SR201, combined House and Senate plan) and the amended Legislation passed 68 to 52. After other maneuvering today, he said, the passed legislation has been redelivered to the Senate for Concurrence or Non-Concurrence. If there is no concurrence, he said, the Legislation would have to go to a Conference Committee where a six-member coalition of 3 senators and 3 representatives would have to iron out the differences to present to both chambers (District 17 State Senator Terry Brown said the Senate hopes to have the votes this morning (Thursday) to send it to Conference. RW).

Smith said that late this afternoon (Wednesday) current Speaker Billy McCoy (who defeated Columbian Jeff Smith by one vote in the Speaker race) gave a huge shot heard around the state. McCoy (D-Prentiss County) said if the Senate did not concur with the House changes to the entire redistricting plan, he would submit the plan to the Justice Department for Section V ‘Pre-Clearance’ as required by the ‘Voting Rights Act of 1965′. Smith said that this has many legal scholars puzzled at how McCoy can get a piece of Legislation approved by the Justice Department that has not met approval by both chambers of the Legislature.

Gary Chism maintains that if the original House plan is approved, it’ll assure that Republicans will never have a majority for the next 10 years. He also said that the district lines are carved up so badly that parts of Oktibbeha County will lie in 5 separate districts spread from the Alabama line to Grenada. Chism also said the Republican plan collapsed 2 white districts in the Delta. He said the Republican plan is “more compact and reflects the true population of the Delta.”

 

GTPDD’s Rudy Johnson

 

Last week, I reported that Golden Triangle Planning & Development Director Rudy Johnson was running for sheriff in Oktibbeha County. But I said that he was the former director of the GTPDD. He’s not a former director…he’s indeed the current director.

 

Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com

 

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