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Three Mobile council members offer alternative redistricting proposal

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – With a deadline looming to adjust the City Council’s district boundaries, three councilmen have offered an alternative proposal.

The plan, sponsored by District 2 Councilman William Carroll, District 1 Councilman Cory Penn and District 4 Councilman Ben Reynolds, is close to a map proposed by a community coalition that opposes the proposal made by Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

The new proposal would closely match the community coalition map, creating a District 7 with a voting-age population that is 53 percent black. That is higher than the 51 percent in Stimpson’s map but includes different neighborhoods than the coalition proposal.

“It’s become clear to me that there’s not five votes for the mayor’s plan, and it doesn’t appear there’s five votes for the community’s plan,” Reynolds told FOX10 News.

This is an attempt at compromise, he said.

“It’s important to me that you have consensus with a plan on redistricting and not just default to the mayor’s plan ’cause we couldn’t reach a supermajority of the council,” Reynolds said.

Jason Johnson, a spokesman for the administration, declined to comment on the alternative.

“It’s their proposal. … The mayor doesn’t vote on this. We did the process that we did,” he said.

Redistricting has been contentious from the start. Required every 10 years after the census to equalize the populations of the seven council districts, the task has been complicated this year by the city’s changing demographics. Black council members and activists in the city have argued that since Mobile is now majority black, the council should reflect that.

Stimpson, trying to balance the desires and interests of each of the incumbent council members, proposed a map that creates four black-majority districts for the first time. But the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center and some Mobile community activists have voiced concerns that the share of voting-age residents in District 7 was too low to ensure that African-Americans would be able to elect the council member of their choice.

Under state law, the deadline for approving the new map is Aug. 12, and the council plans to take a vote on Aug. 9. Under the city’s charter, five of the seven council members must agree, or Stimpson’s proposal will automatically take effect.

Reynolds said the proposal he, Penn and Carroll are offering will give his colleagues a third option to consider.

“It’s got a chance,” he said. “It’s got as good a chance as the other two plans, if not maybe even a little better chance to get five votes. … This isn’t a perfect plan. And it doesn’t satisfy everyone’s desires and wishes. But I think it’s about as close to the best we can do.”

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