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.
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.