Redistricting Committee makes recommendations

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Where you vote in the City of Richmond, could soon be changing. Three new plans to split up the city's voting districts are now on the table in Richmond.

The plans were presented to Mayor Dwight Jones today by his redistricting committee. And one of the three suggestions calls for a radical change in the make-up of city council and even in how the mayor is elected.

One of those plans calls for eliminating several city council seats all together. Two others, recommended by this committee, asks that poverty levels be a determining factor in where the voting lines are drawn.

A committee, created by the mayor, is recommending a plan; Plan "A" and a Plan "B". The maps are slightly different, but have the same concept - they chop up the city's 6 public housing communities dividing them into more city council districts.

"I think that it raises a conversation that needs to be had. And I think it's a conversation that some of us are afraid to have," said Mayor Jones.

Under both plans, Hillside Court would be taken from the 6th and added to the 8th district, creating four council seats that include impoverished areas.

"If we move people around so that everybody has the demographic then when I go to vote I have to take into consideration this neighborhood and not say well that's Ellen Robertson's problem, that's not my problem," Jones said.

A third plan offered up by this committee would start from scratch. It would re-carve out lines dividing the city into five council districts instead of 9.

"It helps broaden the discussion and it's a discussion that we're overdo for having. I don't think any of it can be done without General Assembly approval," said Richmond City Council Member Marty Jewell.

Eliminating four council seats would have to be approved by the General Assembly, which could take years to implement.

Jewell was the only council member in attendance today. He says breaking up the poverty is a novel approach, but he's not sure it's the best way to address the city's poverty problem.

"I don't know that any amount of jimmy-rigging the districts is going to change that," he said.

The mayor's redistricting committee will present its plans to the city council on Monday. Council has to narrow down its options and get public comment by the Fall. A redistricting plan must be sent to the Justice Department for review by November.

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