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Hope Star - Hope, AR
  • City board sets ward plans hearing

  • The Hope City Board of Directors agreed by consensus Tuesday to conduct a public hearing at its July 1 meeting to determine how to proceed in drawing a redistricting plan for the board.
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  • The Hope City Board of Directors agreed by consensus Tuesday to conduct a public hearing at its July 1 meeting to determine how to proceed in drawing a redistricting plan for the board.
    Mayor Dennis Ramsey has presented a plan which will revamp the way directors are chosen to include four single member districts and three at-large directors on a seven-member board.
    The board also agreed by consensus Tuesday to consider a revision of the current seven single-member district system, and city staff will bring that plan, along with Ramsey's proposal, back to the board on July 1.
    Ramsey has said that the change will encourage new blood in city governance, given that Director Doodle Franklin and Director Don Hall both continue to serve without having either filed or sought re-election at least once each because no-one has filed for either seat.
    What I am really asking for is whether the board is amenable to moving forward; and, if so, I think we need to go to a public hearing and get some input from the public about what they would be comfortable with, and they may be comfortable with the way everything is,” Ramsey said. “Some of us on this board are not going to run for re-election, and some have already made that known, and I think we need to get that dialogue moving forward, whether or not we make the November ballot, or go to the next election, or don't do it at all.”
    Under Ramsey's plan each of the four-single member districts is designed to approach a goal of 2,524 residents from a total population of 10,095 residents in the city of Hope. County residents are not included.
    Based upon the 2,524 ideal, the four proposed districts break down as follows:
    Ward 1 – Total population, 2,561; Deviation, plus 37; Deviation percentage, 1.47 percent.
    Ward 2 – Total population, 2,481; Deviation, minus 43; Deviation percentage, -1.7 percent.
    Ward 3 – Total population, 2,499; Deviation, minus 25; Deviation percentage, -0.99 percent.
    Ward 4 – Total population, 2,554; Deviation, plus 30; Deviation percentage, 1.19 percent.
    Page 2 of 3 - Federal law requires deviations from ideal to be no more than plus or minus 10 percent.
    A seven-district single member plan will require an ideal of no more or less than 10 percent deviation from 1,442 residents each.
    City Manager Catherine Cook said the current board composition breaks down by population as follows: Ward 1 – 1,330; Ward 2 – 1,115; Ward 3 – 1,046; Ward 4 – 1,819; Ward 5 – 1,504; Ward 6 – 1,785; and, Ward 7, 1,496 residents.
    There is a greatest disparity between 1,046 and 1,819,” she said.
    And, there is a larger disparity in registered voters,” Ramsey noted.
    However, these wards were set up with equivalent populations; and, you see how in 21 years the population shifts have occurred,” Cook said.
    She said the 1990 Census showed a 40 percent African-American population in Hope and 42-43 percent now.
    Director Kiffenia Talley said her concern was that the board hadn't considered the idea of simply redistricting across the current seven member board structure.
    I want to see other options as far as a map of five-two, possibly, and of the seven wards,” Talley said. “I'd like to see those with, as it is now, with at least a three minority majority.”
    Ramsey pointed out that, under his plan, Wards 1 and 2 are majority African American population. Ward 3 is considered race neutral, with a deviation from ideal of less than minus one percent; and, Ward 4 is considered majority white population.
    Ward 1 has 357 white and 1,390 African American residents. Ward 2 has 857 white and 1,160 African American residents. Ward 3 has 1,001 white and 982 African American residents; and Ward 4 has 1,242 white and 827 African American residents.
    Franklin said he doesn't see why the board need to do anything.
    I can't see why we need to change it and all the numbers of African-American and white,” he said. “I understand that nobody wanted to run; but, why change it?”
    Page 3 of 3 - Talley remained concerned about the “at large” aspect of Ramsey's plan, and, again, he pointed out that it is meant to encourage new interest in city affairs.
    Ramsey said the city's population has become more widely distributed now than in 1993, when the city implemented the current plan.
    There are people that would like to run for city board, but they don't want to run against someone on the board,” Ramsey said. “What we're trying to do is get some more involvement.”

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