McLendon: District heading in the right direction

Published 2:49 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2011

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That was Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon’s message Wednesday to members of the state’s Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment who were in town for a public hearing concerning Legislative redistricting. House and Senate districts are redrawn every 10 years based on the most current Census data.

“(As a district) we’re heading in the right direction,” McLendon said. “The train is on the track. If you have a train on the track and it’s working, you don’t take it off the track.”

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Sen. Bryan Taylor, a member of the 22-person Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, said he doesn’t know what Senate District 30, which includes Butler County, will look like once the districts are redrawn but he wants Butler County to “stay at home” because of the close relationship of all the close ties between the communities in the district.

District 30 includes portions of Autauga and Elmore counties and Lowndes, Butler and Crenshaw counties. The district is near target population size but Autauga and Elmore counties have experienced tremendous growth while the southern part of the district has lost some population. As a result the district needs to shift 2,836 people to another district that is below the target population.

“I am committed to do what I can to keep District 30 as it is,” Taylor said. “I will support a plan to keep it that way. I don’t want it to get carved up.”

However, if that is not possible, Taylor said that he will do all that he can to make sure the lines are drawn fairly so as not to break up communities.

McLendon called that the “worst thing that could happen.”

“We definitely don’t want to be split,” he said.

House District 90, which is represented by Rep. Charles Newton and covers all of Butler and Crenshaw Counties and part of Conecuh County, is below the target population number. The district needs to gain 5,531 people.

Newton, who attended the hearing, encouraged the committee to make as few changes as possible to both districts.

“I’d like to see the districts kept much like they are,” he said. “I’m already in Conecuh County, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to add more people from that area to reach the target number. I hope we’re able to stay as close to what we have as possible.”

Ricky McLaney, executive director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, stressed the importance of keeping the districts in tact from the perspective of bringing jobs to the area.

“Over time you develop a comfort level as far as who to go to in order to get assistance from the state,” he said. “We have that comfort level with Sen. Taylor and Rep. Newton. It makes a difference, and it affects people’s lives, particularly from an economic development standpoint.”

Rep. Jim McClendon, Co-Chairman of the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, said there is currently no redistricting plan in place.

“We do not currently have a plan and we will not have a plan in place until we finish our trek around the state,” McClendon said. “We have 21 cities we are visiting and having hearings like this and today is No. 12. We will eventually have a plan in place, but we don’t have a plan at the moment.”