Proposed redistricting of Albion could displace Williamson

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A member of Albion City Council could lose their seat under a redistricting plan proposed by the council.

Council members voted 5-2 on March 7 to approve the first reading of a map that, among other changes, would place Precinct 6 council member Shane Williamson outside the boundaries of his precinct, eliminating his ability to retain the seat.

The map, submitted by Precinct 2 council member Lenn Reid, changes the northeast boundary of Precinct 6, placing Williamson in Precinct 5. No other council member would lose their seat in the framework. of the proposal.

Williamson and Mayor Victoria Garcia Snyder opposed the measure.

Two maps developed by city staff were also considered, with each map retaining the current council seats. Council members will consider a second reading of Reid’s map on March 21.

Williamson, in a phone conversation last week, described Reid’s proposed redistricting as a “political bus” meant to “crush me.”

“I disagree with a few (board members) on a lot of things on the board, and there’s a lot of things we agree on, but I never, ever thought I’d try to nullify their ability to represent the people who elected them,” he said.

If Reid’s map is approved by the city council on March 21, registered voters in the city would have up to 30 days to petition the 37th Circuit Court to determine whether the dispatch plan meets state and federal guidelines, the official said. City Manager Haley Snyder.

Absent a citizen petition, the map would go into effect on April 21, according to Snyder.

If the card is ultimately approved, it’s unclear when Williamson will have to give up his seat. His four-year term is due to expire in December according to Albion’s website, and Albion will have a municipal election in the Nov. 8 ballot. Albion’s town charter states that no amendment to the precinct boundary “shall come into effect for any regular municipal election taking place within six (6) months after it is passed by council”.

Snyder said she sought a legal opinion from City Attorney Cullen Harkness regarding the case.

Reid reiterated his concerns about the two maps offered by the city during the March 7 special session, citing the lack of street names as a potential source of confusion for residents.

“I couldn’t see what was going on,” she said. “When I get calls and I’m asked questions, it’s my responsibility to be able to answer them, or to find out or find out what’s going on because I’m responsible for the people I’m advising.”

Seeking to learn more about the process, Reid reached out to Robert Joerg, advocacy director for the Michigan Labourers’ District Council, and asked if there were any improvements that could be made to city maps.

Reid then submitted a map drawn up by Joerg to city staff around noon on March 7, about six hours before the special meeting.

“Looking at this (map), it got us to what the gap is for what each neighborhood should have,” Reid said by phone Friday, pointing to the map’s overall 0.78% gap, the smallest difference among the three options presented to the Board.

Reid declined to comment Friday on Williamson’s claim that the card is intended as a political attack on him.

Discussion of Reid’s proposed map began after council members voted March 5-2 at the special meeting to amend an earlier resolution outlining the city’s redistricting process to include map submissions from members of the city council.

Precinct 4 council member Marcola Lawler proposed the change, acknowledging that while she did not have a card to present to the council, she believed that council members should be given the opportunity to present such documents, citing similar practices in other Michigan communities.

“I’m proud of myself for doing my due diligence and getting out of Albion to see what other communities are doing because it’s something we do and it’s something we all have. done,” she said during the special session. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.”

Williamson and Garcia Snyder opposed the amendment, referring to council’s February 22 unanimous approval of a resolution to consider only redistricting plans proposed by the city administration or legal counsel.

“I was personally disappointed with this last minute card as it did not allow enough time for community members to consider all of the options that were going to be voted on at this meeting, nor did it give them enough notice to be available. to this meeting to express their opinion on how this would affect them, since it was not even presented to the board until noon on the day of the vote,” Garcia Snyder said in an emailed statement Friday. “It also demonstrated that council still felt they had to take on the responsibilities of the city manager.”

Both options offered by city staff were well below the state’s required 10% deviation standard, Garcia Snyder said, each with deviations below 2.5%.

“These options also kept every board member in their compound,” she said. “The fact that council decided to vote on the last-minute option which would, in essence, remove Councilor Williamson from his precinct was very discouraging.”

City residents expressed their own frustrations with the council’s decision during public comments on March 7.

“I can’t say enough how disappointed I am with this advice,” said Ward 6 resident and former city council member Andrew French. “We talk at the national level, at the state level about gerrymandering and the fact that we want non-partisan people to engage and decide how our boundaries are drawn for our representation. And what we see, what happens. happened tonight is that a board member who served one term, who expressed opinions that were against the majority of the board, was eliminated from serving the community because four of you decided that you didn’t want him on the board and you could use an apolitical tool and turn him into a political one.

“You took away our representation,” he continued. “You’re now demanding that someone else, who didn’t run for office four years ago, that someone else has to step in. And we were very happy with Shane, and we’re stepping away from that representation isn’t American, it isn’t.”

Precinct 6 resident Clifford Harris echoed French’s sentiments.

“No one in the city has had a chance to review (this proposal),” Harris said. “Most people in the city don’t even know this is happening. You took away our vote, you took away our chance to make our own choices, you disenfranchised the Sixth Ward, most (of residents) having no idea I hope you are proud of yourselves.

Williamson hopes some of his colleagues who voted in favor of the map will reassess their decision over the next few weeks ahead of second reading.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the fact that they could put anybody on the board and then just move the line, change the rules,” Williamson said. “If this continues and it happens to me, I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and that will involve a complete and total reshuffle of the city council.”

Contact reporter Greyson Steele at [email protected] or 269-501-5661. Follow him on Twitter: G_SteeleBC.

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