Proposal puts Bennett back in district

Published 9:48 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This plan, sent to the city by a Norfolk State University political science professor, is an alternative to a redistricting plan proposed by the city. This plan would keep Councilman Leroy Bennett in the Nansemond borough that he has represented for 15 years.

An alternative redistricting plan put forth by a political science professor at Norfolk State University would put Councilman Leroy Bennett back in his borough.

The plan was sent to the city’s Media and Community Relations Department from Rudolph Wilson, chairman of the Political Science Department at NSU. Debbie George, head of that department, emailed the plan to City Council members Tuesday night, with a note saying the city manager “would like to make you aware” of the plan.

Bennett did not return calls for comment on the plan Wednesday.

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To accomplish keeping Bennett in his district, the new proposal would draw the southern boundary of Chuckatuck north and expand it over the Nansemond River, taking in much of what is currently the western part of the Nansemond borough. The Nansemond borough would look similar on its southern border — the part that affects Bennett and School Board representative Thelma Hinton.

The Whaleyville borough would become much thinner because the Cypress borough would grow to the west, rather than growing north as in the proposal put forward by city staff.

Bennett said in a July 20 City Council work session that he was “blindsided” by the proposal, which he and other members had just seen for the first time.

The city proposal put his home into the Cypress borough, which is represented by Vice Mayor Charles Brown.

Councilman Robert Barclay said Wednesday that he had seen the plan.

“I’m reserving judgment on all of them until we go through the public meeting process and hear what the voters have to say about it,” Barclay said of the redistricting proposals. “They’re the people that elect us, so I want to hear from them first.”

Councilman Michael Duman also said he had received the plan.

“I have not had the opportunity to review it, but just like any other plan that is brought forth, it needs to be considered to see if it’s a viable alternative,” he said.

Other members of City Council either were not at home or did not return messages Wednesday afternoon.

According to population statistics submitted with the plan, the proposal creates three majority black boroughs — Cypress, Nansemond and Whaleyville. Nansemond, at about 60 percent black, is the closest to being a tossup.