Remarks to City Council, 6/28/11
The ongoing redistricting discussion continues in Norfolk, with City Council voting on one of two different plans tonight. Here’s my comments to Council on the matter:
In a perfect world, representatives of the city of Norfolk would be chosen not based on race, but on their ability alone. Of course, we know that we don’t live in that perfect world. Because of the activism of generations before my birth, as well as the sins of others in that generation, a candidate or nominee’s race is often considered when election, appointment, or redistricting time comes around.
Tonight’s discussion of the “compromise plan” is only possible because an ill-informed public, often too caught up in the goings-on of Washington and Richmond, has enabled some on this Council to believe that their will and their preservation of power is all that matters. That’s our failure as citizens to hold up our end of the unwritten contract between the governors and the governed. It’s what allowed certain members of this council-who’ve gotten away with it for years-to print notices about redistricting on days when papers are barely read, and schedule hearings for it at times when many people are still stuck in traffic.
Yet out of the single public hearing on redistricting came a glimpse of a plan that goes far beyond the mere preservation of power.
The Jordan alternative seeks to develop a ward system that is more reflective of the city’s racial makeup. Under his plan, the city’s council would move from a 4-3 racial split, or 5-3 when the mayor is included, to the possibility of an equal 4-4 split. The Jordan alternative could also move us closer to the day when the segregation of racial voting power is irrelevant, as this plan shows to the Justice Department that our city has moved further away from the dark days of racial discrimination.
Yet this council is unwilling to consider it…and has given every reason possible not to, and has used every possible scheme to keep citizens in the dark about the Jordan plan. First, we geard that one of the wards in the plan was .1% short of a requirement from the Justice Department; that percentage amounts to about 200-300 people. Then, at the last Council meeting, no comments from the public were heard on redistricting at all. And finally tonight, the “discussion” of the Jordan plan will take place after the vote on this compromise…which means if the compromise is approved, the Jordan alternative won’t get a discussion at all.
Members of Council, it’s your responsibility to consider the Jordan alternative, beyond holding a single hearing on its merits and then burying it under tonight’s agenda. You’ve been given a plan that not only reflects the makeup of our city, but presents an opportunity to say-and show-to the nation that we are truly better than our past. You have a duty, far beyond working toward your reelection, to consider the Jordan alternative.