Huntsville City Council, School Board discuss redistricting in joint meeting
Published on July 30, 2021
Members of the Huntsville City Council and Huntsville City Schools Board of Education on Friday received an overview of how the upcoming Council redistricting process will work.
Federal law requires redistricting every 10 years following a census count to ensure compliance with the constitutional right of one person, one vote. It also prevents uneven districts in which one Council member represents 30,000 constituents, while another represents only 10,000.
“We’ll take the total number of people in the City of Huntsville, divide it up by five districts of about 41,000 to 42,000 per district,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “At that point, we’ll draw lines. We take into account where each of the incumbents live, but also try to keep neighborhoods together.”
School Board President Elisa Ferrell emphasized that redistricting is not the same as rezoning and would not affect where students attend schools. Redistricting guidelines and plans are adopted by Council members, but the process is applicable to the School Board because – like the Council – each member represents one of the City’s five districts.
The redistricting process, which will run through the end of the year, was outlined by Demographer Connie Graham and Planner James Vandiver, who are leading the City’s redistricting team. Redistricting guidelines will be considered by Council at its Aug. 12 meeting.
Vandiver said Battle’s assessment of 41,000 to 42,000 people per district is realistic but added booming population growth could push that number as high as 43,000. The City’s redistricting team will have a clearer picture when the U.S. Census Bureau releases its raw data by Aug. 16.
Using preliminary housing data, Vandiver explained every district but one has seen housing growth over the last decade. Only District 4 has seen a decrease in housing units, mostly the result of demolitions and moves. District 5 gained over 7,900 housing units, which is more than all other Council districts combined.
Graham said Council will adopt the final redistricting plan, which will include input from the Mayor, School Board and members of the public. She said citizen input is welcome, provided it follows guidelines approved by Council next month. They can submit comments or ask questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In September, public redistricting software will launch, followed by a presentation of the Mayor’s redistricting plan on Oct. 14. There will be one public hearing per each Council district in October and November. The redistricting plan ordinance will be introduced at the Dec. 2 Council meeting. The Council will then adopt the plan at its Dec. 16 meeting.
The joint session marked the second time this year both the Council and School Board came together to discuss Huntsville’s growth and subsequent impacts. Council President Jennie Robinson said the meetings highlighted the collaborative partnership between the City and school system.
“It’s important for us to meet together to share information and plan for the future, but it’s really important because we are mutually beneficial to each other,” she said. “The success of one depends on the success of the other.”
Battle echoed Robinson’s comments and added his administration works closely with Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley.
“We work together on a day-to-day basis on the success of our community, how we make our community a better place and how we improve on what we have,” he said.