Early last summer, the members of the Reapportionment Committees from the Georgia state House and Senate traveled all over the state holding public hearings on plans to redraw the states political boundaries.
After compiling all that information, the states Democratic leadership went to Atlanta and threw it in the trash and drew tortured, computer-generated maps geared toward propping up the Democrat majority. In elections this year, Republicans hope to make an issue of such strong-arm tactics.
Good luck. Most citizens slept through the political drama. Still, the episode leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those too-rare citizens who stay informed about their elected officials.
Youd think, at least, that local officials would try to do better.
Instead, after seeing how the Democrats ignored citizens views on redistricting, the Columbia County Commission and the School Board simply skipped public input altogether.
Just as the census requires state districts to be redrawn, so are County Commission and School Board seats adjusted every 10 years as population shifts. The idea is to make each district roughly the same size, so each citizens vote counts as much as any others.
In redrawing those lines, the county relied on its mapping program to draw new districts that protect incumbents. The school system then used a five-district map also drawn on the countys computer, and theyve submitted it to the countys legislative delegation which must approve the districts.
Citizens, though, have been left out. County Commission Chairman Barry Fleming at least contends the map was on the agenda for a public meeting, though it was voted on without discussion. Thats more than the School Board did when it gave the delegation a map that never received public mention.
Monday evening, though, citizens get a chance to at least see what the new districts could look like. The legislative delegation is holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. at the Evans Government Complex Auditorium to display the proposed maps and discuss pending changes to county government.
This is about more than just shifting around a few voting precincts. Among the issues on the table are the pending change to four commissioners with a countywide elected chairman; the question of whether Grovetown and Harlem should be split into separate Commission and School Board districts; and a proposal to also change the School Board to a four-trustee setup with a chairman elected at large. Consolidation will also be a key topic (see editorial below).
Mondays meeting should be more than just a show-and-tell session for politicians and political junkies. It provides a rare opportunity for citizens to offer input not just on who represents them, but on how those representatives are chosen.
Besides: All of us have been ignored until now. Heres a chance to prove that it matters.
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