Salisbury Planning Redistricting Public Forums

SALISBURY – With public forums scheduled into next month, the Salisbury City Council will be hearing the public’s input on how election districts should be altered.

In November, Mayor Jim Ireton proposed a few different plans on how to make adjustments to the boundaries of the city’s election districts due to an increase in population.

Based on the results of the Census, the population has grown to 30,607 in the last 10 years and minorities make up 44 percent of the city’s population.

Salisbury’s current system is divided into two districts from which two council members are elected plus three at-large members, totaling a five-member council.

This week city resident Patrick Hannon presented the council and citizens with some “food for thought” as the public forums approach.

Hannon is in support of Plan 3, which would maintain the current five-member council format. The only significant change between his favored plan and the current system is that the boundaries would be re-drawn in the two districts to reflect population changes.

“Being a past member of the Bi-racial Commission, I know what their efforts were trying to do 50 years ago, which speaks to the character of the citizens of this city and this was all done without strife,” said Hannon, who doesn’t believe districts should be divided based on race. “When you think about it, think about the long-term effort that has been made to have this city be unified, to work together, to have neighborhoods … I think we are on the right road let’s not change this.”

Ireton’s other plans include Plan 1, which would divide the city into five election districts, two being minority-majority districts. The plan calls for making adjustments in the election schedule to allow for a staggered turnover among the five districts. After a couple of two-year terms to get the new election system on schedule, council members would be elected to four-year terms with three seats coming up in one cycle and two seats coming up in the next cycle.

Plan 2 would move from the current five-member council to seven members. The plan would divide the city into five election districts, including two minority-majority districts, and add two at-large members, creating a seven-member council.

At the time, Ireton supported Plan 2. He said while the proposed plan increases the number of seats and divides the city into smaller election districts, it also preserves the elections of the current council members because of the plan to stagger the elections during the phase-in period.

Ireton also favors Plan 2 because of its potential to present greater opportunities for representation for the town’s growing minority population. According to the 2010 Census, Salisbury’s population is currently over 55-percent white and nearly 45-percent minority, with African-Americans making up just under 34 percent.

Future election redistricting public input forums are scheduled for Tuesday, March 20, 6:30 p.m. at Parkway Church of God, Tuesday, March 27, 6:30 p.m. at Harvest Baptist Church, and Monday, April 2, 12:30 p.m. at the Government Office Building in Council Chambers.