If the commission plan is enacted,
have some cleaner lines, but otherwise look pretty much the way it
does now for at least the next two years and possibly for 10.
for a few minor adjustments, the commission at a meeting on Aug.
6 approved the plan it had previously endorsed. Voting against
it was Abbott's representative, Jeffrey Schlerf. Tyrone Johnson,
who represented Fourth District councilman Penrose Hollins was
approved districts, now defined as lines on a map, will be
reduced to text form in an ordinance which is to go to Council
when it reconvenes on Sept. 11 following its August vacation
recess. The ordinance is expected to be passed then or at the
Sept. 25 session. The new districts take effect with the 2002
penultimate act, a commission appointed by Council took
testimony on Aug. 2 on two possible redistricting schemes. For
the most part the hearing focused on several Greenville
residents objecting to moving Westover Hills and the section of
their community which lies on the other (Wilmington) side of the
tracks from the Third to the Second District.
The approved plan calls for Weiner's
district to be
extended westward to the freight
railroad line as far as Thompsons
Bridge Road and thence along
the Brandywine to the Pennsylvania border. Abbott's
district would continue to follow the arc of Delaware's
unique circular border to just north of Newark.
Most notable change is including the entire city of
Wilmington in one district, the Fourth, which also would extend
along Du Pont Highway and New Castle Avenue to the Interstate
295 approach to the Delaware Memorial Bridge with the exclusion
of Holloway Terrace. That is Hollins's district.
Robert Woods's First District looses its
eastern protrusion toward New Castle to Christopher Roberts'
Sixth District, which remains by far the largest, and Karen Venezly's
Fifth District grows
NOW AND THEN: New
Castle County Council districts as they are now (left) and
will be if the redistricting commission's preferred plan
Council's other member, its president, is elected at-large.
lines were drawn with incumbents in mind, retaining the
present political complexions of the districts so that they are
not handicapped should they choose to seek re-election in 2002.
After that, it's anybody's guess because state law calls for
Council to be enlarged to 13 members with 12 Council districts
before the 2004 election. That would require drawing new
district boundaries. There is some talk, however, of changing
that law to provide for fewer districts and it is remotely
possible that it could be repealed, keeping the status quo.
legislatures are required by the U.S. Constitution to realign
themselves after every decennial census with the
one-person-one-vote interpretation requiring that the resultant
districts be within a reasonable deviation from the average
population. New Castle County's average is 83,378/ The
redistricting commission's plan provides for deviation ranging
from minus 2.76% in the Second District to plus 4.77% in the
Sixth. The Sixth District, however, has the lowest percentage of
registered voters, 61.7%, while the Second has the highest,
outnumber Republicans in every district but the Second and
Third, with Council's present political composition reflecting
that. Council president Christopher Coons also is a Democrat.
Greenville residents told the redistricting commission at the
splitting their community between two council members -- albeit
both Republicans -- would do them a disservice by reducing their
clout relative to the rest of the large districts.
let numbers drive the whole process. ... Generally we have large
lot sizes but not many people. If you split us, we'll be spread
among more voters and we are going to disappear completely. You
won't be able to hear our voices over the noise by so many other
voters," John Moore said.
Johnson said one-community-one-representative is significant to
preserving cohesion and assuring proper representation of its
Hendry, president of the Kennett Pike Association, said he had
been in Europe and was not up to speed on the work of the
commission -- actually its deliberations attracted little media
attention except for Delaforum -- but he thought that the
Brandywine would be a more logical dividing line. He and other
speakers were at pains to claim Greenville's interests have been
well supported by both Abbott and Weiner.
Norwich, president of the Civic League for New Castle County,
however, questioned the logic of dividing the incorporated city
of Wilmington, which has definite boundaries, instead of an
unincorporated amorphous place like Greenville. A minority plan
advanced by Schlerf proposed keeping the Third District's south
Greenville and Westover Hills constituents while giving Weiner
the Kentmere-Rockford section of west Wilmington.
defended that swap by noting that it did not involve "that much
of an intrusion into the city." Although the affected area
"might technically be in the city," its demographic makeup is
more akin to the Kennett Pike suburbs, he claimed.
Abbott was the only Council member present at the hearing but
did not speak, there was an undercurrent of yet another
political squabble between him and his Republican colleague,
Weiner. Weiner objected before the hearing to the tone of a
letter message Abbott sent to his Greenville constituents urging
them to support remaining in his district and to what Weiner
alleged were misstatements in the letter.
who said he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of the
countywide civic association, and David Carver, a resident of
Townsend, disputed the wisdom of allotting so much territory to
the Sixth District when all projections indicate that is the
area of the county which will gain by far the most new residents
in the coming decade. The area south of the Chesapeake &
Delaware Canal stands long into the foreseeable future to be the
most underrepresented section of the county, Carver said.
Guy, a former Wilmington city councilman, said both plans before
the hearing violated the federal Voting Rights Act in that they
reduce the concentration of black voters in the Fourth District
from 62.8% at present to 57.7% under the plan likely to be
approved and 58.5% under the other one. Hollins presently is the
only Afro-American member of Council. There is still a
presumption that only if non-whites make up a statistically
significant portion of a district's population -- Guy said it is
65% -- will it elect a non-white person to represent it.
read into the record a letter from Leland Ware, the Louis L.
Redding professor of law and public policy at the University of
Delaware, which declared that the plan did not disperse black
voters among other districts, which is prohibited by the federal
law. "The commission's redistricting plan does not appear to
affect African American voters in a manner that would violate
[the law]," Ware declared.
Guy chastised commission chairman
Reneé Marks for failure to put the plan Guy submitted before the
public. That plan, he said, would append predominantly black
areas north and south of the city to Hollins's district, keeping
the present ratio while reducing deviation from the population
average in all district to less than 2%.