Stallings debates redrawing district lines

STALLINGS – Early last month, Stallings Town Council members discussed concerns over certain districts in the town not receiving equal representation due to out-of-balance districts. Now, the council is taking steps to fix the problem.

While discussions early on included a possible switch to four districts and two at-large districts – which cover the whole town – council decided to stick with the six-district plan and look at possibly redrawing boundary lines for those districts.

Council members heard presentations Monday, Feb. 11, from town staff on the possibility of newly drawn districts.  According to Mayor Lynda Paxton, the changes could impact some current council members.

“When the map was presented, it excluded Councilman (Paul) Frost from seeking re-election in this year’s race,” she said.  “New boundaries had all of Callonwood in District 6, which is occupied by Councilman (Fred) Weber until
2015.”

Paxton said that while councilmembers voted to redraw districts, many are now opposing any changes to a new voting structure.

“There was a consensus decision to keep the six districts but to redraw boundaries to balance the population of each and staff was asked to bring us a map and numbers with that goal so that changes could be made well before the opening of the filing period in July,” Paxton said.

Despite how the changes would impact his current district, Frost sees the redrawing as something necessary to give Stallings residents accurate and fair representation.

“(The current system) just doesn’t make sense,” he said.  “If we are talking about true democracy, which is based on fairness and a level playing field, then voting districts should be similar in size.”

Before moving forward, Frost still sees a benefit in talking to other councilmembers about the voting districts and possibly making more changes to increase support from other councilmembers.

“I want to talk with other council members individually and address their concerns, and ask if we can reconsider it,” he said.  “If the main request is adjustments are to be made, maybe we can make some more changes.”

While some councilmembers like Frost – the representative from District 6, which has the highest population at 1,089 housing units – and Wyatt Dunn, the representative from District 3 with a population of 894 housing units, are in favor of the changes, there are still some members who oppose redrawing the voting districts in Stallings.

According to Paxton, the councilmember who most strongly opposes the changes is Councilmember Reed Esagrove from District 2.  District 2 is the smallest district in Stallings with only 476 housing units.

In the last election, though there was someone running against Esagrove, Frost says his opponent “never showed up for debate, had no signs and was completely silent,” leaving Esagrove to run unopposed.  The lack of competition in some districts is something Frost hopes to eliminate with any changes that are approved.

Councilmembers Shawna Steele and Fred Weber also opposed changes to the current voting districts, according to Paxton.  Steele is the representative for District 4 with a population of 901 housing units, and Fred Weber is the representative from District 5 with a population of 1,086 housing units.

Further discussions about voting districts have been tabled, and no decision has been made on when they will continue.  Some council members did not return comment for this story.

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