City sets hearings to review maps

ALBANY, Ga. — Two public hearings on a pair of proposed maps for redistricting the city of Albany’s wards are scheduled for Sept. 27 and Oct. 13, city officials say.

Assistant City Manager Wes Smith has released a timeline for the redistricting process, which is intended to bring the population of each of the city’s six wards within 5 percent of an “ideal” ward population of 12,906.

The City Commission comprises six commissioners elected from the single-member districts, which are referred to as wards. The mayor is considered an “at-large” commissioner and is elected in a citywide vote.

Two working maps have been prepared by consultant Linda Meggers and have been provided to city commissioners, Smith said. The city is also giving the public and media access to the maps.

The public hearings for general information on the process are scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 27 in room 100 of the Government Center on Pine Avenue, and at 10 a.m. Oct. 13 at Orine Hall on the Albany State University campus.

Following the public hearings, comments from commissioners and the public will be taken into account in revisions to the plans that will be presented in November, Smith said. The commission is expected to take up the new map in January and hold another public hearing in February.

A final revision will be presented to the commission, followed by a final public hearing before the commission votes on the redistricting plan in March. The map would then be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, which must sign off on any election changes made in Georgia.

Smith said the commission intentionally waited to take up the redistricting issue until after the November general municipal elections so that the new commission would have an opportunity to review the maps, along with the public, and request any necessary revisions.

“There’s always the possibility that someone may be elected who lived in the ward they were seeking previous to the changes but would be living in another ward when the new maps take shape,” Smith said. “That’s why the commission decided to wait and take up the issue in February after the election so that any new members could participate in the process.”

Unlike the Dougherty County Commission and the Dougherty County School Board, which recently wrapped up their redistricting process, the City Commission doesn’t need approval from the Georgia General Assembly to change its district lines.