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Fredericksburg officials face tight timeline for redistricting
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Fredericksburg officials face tight timeline for redistricting

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Fredericksburg officials are scrambling to redraw the lines of its four wards now that late-arriving data from the U.S. Census is in place.

The new district boundaries have to be drawn by Dec. 31.

City Council held a work session with the planning department Tuesday to discuss the matter. There will be a public information meeting at the Walker–Grant Center at 210 Ferdinand St. on Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m.

City Council will hold a public hearing Nov. 23 and a second public information meeting will take place Dec. 7 at the Dorothy Hart Community Center, 408 Canal St.

Final action will be taken at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting.

Councilmen Matt Kelly, Billy Withers and Tim Duffy said politicians should have as little say as possible, as their campaigns will be affected by the upcoming changes.

“This is something we really shouldn’t be getting too involved in,” Kelly said. “[City staff can] play with the numbers, address what the public concerns are and move on.”

The census showed that the boundaries for the city’s election wards need to be changed to correct an imbalance of population.

City staff has worked with Kevin Byrnes of Regional Decision Systems to provide options for the new wards that keeps Fredericksburg in compliance with state law and local ordinances.

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Fredericksburg Planning and Building Director Chuck Johnston presented two plans to City Council that are in the early stages of development.

The plans are a reaction to census data that demonstrated that Ward 1, which includes the Idlewild subdivision, is too large by 1,946 residents.

Ward 2 is 1,455 residents short of its target. Ward 3 is 515 residents too small and Ward 4 is just right, with only 25 fewer citizens than the target.

“Ward 1 grew and grew this time around,” said Councilman Jason Graham, who ran unopposed for reelection in Ward 1 on Nov. 2. “We have a massive imbalance.”

Johnston said one possibility is to split Idlewild into two different wards to alleviate the overflow, but added that addressing common concerns in the community may suffer as a result of that option.

With more than 28,000 residents in Fredericksburg, the target for each ward is 7,055 people. The districts must be within 5 percent of that number, which means the wards must have anywhere from 6,702 to 7,408 residents.

Under state law, the wards should be composed of contiguous and compact territory. There must be clearly defined and observable boundaries such as a road, street, river or stream.

Race may be considered in constructing the wards, but should not be the dominant factor. Fredericksburg has a longstanding tradition of ensuring at least one ward has a white population of less than 50 percent.

Both plans that were presented by Johnston keeps Ward 4, which includes the Mayfield neighborhood, parts of downtown and the Fall Hill Avenue corridor, intact at 43 percent white. Plan A would also make Ward 1 a majority-minority Ward at 49 percent white.

“We have two majority-minority wards [under Plan A],” Withers said. “It’s a good thing. I think [staff has] done good work.”

City officials said that public engagement is an important part of the redistricting process. They’re urging residents to visit fredericksburgva.gov/redistricting to see the proposed maps and get more information. They can also email redistricting@fredericksburgva.gov or call 372-1010 with questions, concerns or suggestions.

Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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