The Greensboro City Council spent a lot of time thanking the Citizens’ Redistricting Committee at the Tuesday, Oct. 19 virtual meeting.
It also spent a good amount of time congratulating itself for being so nonpartisan and nonpolitical in appointing a citizens’ committee to draw the new City Council districts.
Then Mayor Nancy Vaughan and councilmembers made it clear that they had no intention of following the recommendation of the committee, but they had cleverly arranged things so they could say that they had.
The Citizens’ Redistricting Committee had one recommendation, “Pie Shaped” Version 2 Draft Map. Six of the seven members of the committee chose that as the map to recommend and seven members chose that map at the next to last meeting.
But something happened between the third meeting and the fourth and final meeting, and it was obvious at that final meeting that the fix was in.
Committee member Marlene Sanford, who had suggested the pie shaped map in the beginning and had been one of the big supporters of that map, said she had talked to several people who had problems with the pie shaped map. She also said that she talked to several councilmembers who would be willing to hold a special meeting to consider the redistricting maps, if the committee could not reach an agreement.
The objections Sanford stated at the Citizens’ Redistricting Committee meeting and the objections stated by Vaughan at the council meeting were nearly identical, but Sanford never said that Vaughan was one of the people who contacted her. Nor did she explain how she came to know that councilmembers were willing to call a special meeting.
At the third meeting, the committee had expressed support for the pie shaped map and asked for it to be tweaked before it was approved at the final meeting. It appeared the intention was to recommend the tweaked version of the map that became “Pie Shaped” Version 2 Draft Map and be done.
At that final meeting, Sanford insisted the committee consider a map she said she had drawn that afternoon based on a map the committee had previously considered and rejected.
The committee was also told at the final meeting that it could not select one map. At previous meetings it had appeared to be the entire purpose of the committee was to look at a variety of maps, pick one and recommend it to the City Council. Committee member Steve Bowden strongly urged the committee to recommend only the “Pie Shaped” map to the City Council.
Mac McCarley, an attorney with Parker Poe who was hired to direct the redistricting process, told the committee at that final meeting that it had been directed to select “maps.”
The actual criteria for the committee states, “a map or maps.” Planning Department Director Sue Schwartz practically insisted that the committee select three maps.
So the stage was set for the City Council to be able to claim that it was following the direction of the committee it appointed to handle redistricting without politics when it was actually ignoring the recommendation of the committee.
It appears that at the Monday, Nov. 1 meeting the City Council will approve Moderate Change 2 Draft Map presented by Sanford at the final meeting. That map appears to have been drawn, if not by members of the City Council, certainly at the direction of members of the City Council. The actual recommendation of the Citizens’ Redistricting Committee, “Pie Shaped” Version 2 Draft Map, will be ignored.
The pie shaped map got six votes on the Citizens’ Committee. Sanford’s map got one – Sanford’s vote. The City Council is going to claim that by approving Sanford’s map it is following the recommendation of the committee. The City Council could, of course, decide to approve the Least Change map that was also “recommended” to the City Council even though it didn’t receive a single vote from a Citizens’ Redistricting Committee member.
So much for taking politics out of the redistricting process.