Do Homer residents get equal representation because they are divided up into three proposed districts for council seats? That is one question citizens of District 3 and the town council could not agree upon during a sometimes heated debate at the town council meeting on Tuesday.

Julie King, a resident of District 3 and Chimney Oaks, questioned the council about the districting process. She noted that two of the districts have two representatives, and district 3 has only one.

“Our representation is diminished with only one council member and we contribute the most tax dollars," she said.

She proposed a plan for equal representation in all three districts, two at-large positions, and the mayor.

Mayor Doug Cheek pointed at that Homer does not have city taxes.

David Syfan, city attorney, explained that members of the district have five representatives noting that all council members work for the good of the city as a whole. That was not well received, and citizens began to speak out.

"Multi-member districts diminish choice," resident Brad Day said. "There is a super majority for others."

All cities and counties look to the Georgia Reapportion Office to handle redistricting, Syfan explained.

“They are the professionals; they do it for every city, county, and congressional districts, and numbers are based on population from the Census," he said.

Other residents began to speak out. They wanted to know how the districts came about. Councilmember James Dumas asked city leaders to look at this because he knew of a nearby city where councilmembers and the mayor all live in the same district. At present, council seats are all at-large.

“I didn’t want that to happen here,” he said.

The council turned the information in to the Georgia Reapportion Office and asked them to draw up the districts in 2018. The districts are based on population. In an earlier Census, District 3 had 231 residents compared to 400 plus people living in each of the other two districts. The plan was approved by the general assembly.

Then Chimney Oak residents wanted to know when the council could look at the 2020 Census noting that the population has increased in their district.

Syfan explained that there were two extensions on the Census due to COVID-19. The first order of business for the Reapportion Office is to look at congressional districts. He projected that the city may begin to see current census data in the fall.

It may be 2022 before the districts are redrawn, and it could be the 2023 election before residents could see a change in their representation on the ballot.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business at the meeting, the council reviewed the SPLOST wish list if Banks County citizens approve a special purpose sales tax that comes from retail sales. The list included $525,000 for a fire truck and additional equipment, $200,000 for water and sewer, $150,000 for equipment, and $125,000 for a shop building. The SPOST vote is expected to be on the ballot in Banks County in November.

In other business the council:

•talked about putting a roundabout at the intersection near Golden Pantry.

•discussed adding a three-way stop on Samples Scales Road and Hidden Lakes Subdivision.

•voted to name two new roads near the golf course as Magnolia Place and Fairway Lane.

Locations

(1) comment

Bob Baldwin

I am a recent resident of Chimney Oaks Golf Community. I moved here to downsize and be nearer grandkids. I certainly wasn’t attracted to the area by downtown Homer! With that being said we enjoy the relaxed feel of the area and don’t mind having to go outside Homer for shopping or dining, with the exception of the golf restaurant being about the only place in the city to eat.

During the meeting with town council I believe the Mayor tried to make the point that the effort to redraw districts had been under consideration since 2018 and was common knowledge through the newspaper. Well most of the residents of Chimney Oaks have moved here just in the past year or two. I don’t know the numbers but it is significantly more than the 2010 Census that the town has used to draw up the third district which has only one council representative.

A reasonable request was made to have one representative from each district and two others at large. Then after the 2020 Census is finalized adjustments could be made using a much more accurate population count.

This would be much more fair than the statement by city attorney Syfan that it could be the 2023 election before residents could see a change. Additionally I find if difficult to believe that there needs to be five district representatives in a town of only around 1150 residents according to the numbers presented at the town meeting.

The feeling that I got from the meeting was that the town council wants to push this proposed redistributing effort through and limit the amount of representation District 3 should have. Surely the town council must know that the Chimney Oaks community has had tremendous growth compared to any other area of the city. It also feels as if the town council is anti growth as evident by the lack of any improvements or attracting any new business. What’s with all the dilapidated buildings you see as you pass through town?

I love our community and it’s made up of people that want to contribute to the area and expect to have equal representation.

Bob Baldwin

Welcome to the discussion.

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