Nansemond redistricting meeting tonight

Published 9:58 pm Monday, September 12, 2011

A meeting on redistricting in the Suffolk borough last week drew the largest turnout to any of the community meetings yet — but it’s likely that tonight’s meeting in the Nansemond borough will break the record.

About 14 members of the public — not including City Council members, city staff and media — were present at Thursday’s community meeting in the Suffolk borough. It marked the halfway point of the seven meetings. Only three are left.

The meetings were organized to receive community comments on Suffolk’s proposed redistricting map.

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Four people spoke at the meeting, which was attended by Councilman Charles Parr, who represents the Suffolk borough, and Councilman Leroy Bennett.

For Paul Gillis, it was his fourth time attending a meeting and the fourth time speaking. He again accused the city of attempting to gerrymander the black community.

“You can’t reduce the voting strength of the black population,” he said. “How can you put two council members that are black in the same borough? If you can clear that up, I wouldn’t come to another meeting.”

He referred to the city’s proposed map, which draws Bennett into the Cypress borough already represented by Councilman Charles Brown. It also would unseat two School Board members.

The meeting for the Nansemond borough, which is represented both by Bennett and by one of the threatened School Board members, is tonight. A larger turnout is expected.

Also at the Suffolk borough meeting, Clinton Jenkins, vice president of the Suffolk Nansemond chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, again promoted the map developed by the NAACP.

“There is no gerrymandering of this map, political or racial,” he said of the organization’s proposal. Their map would keep each incumbent in his borough.

Another speaker at the Suffolk meeting suggested an at-large seat, but city chief of staff Sherry Hunt explained that would require General Assembly action. The General Assembly is out of session until January, but a redistricting decision is required by the city before the end of the year.

The schedule for the remainder of the meetings is below:

  • Nansemond — Nansemond River High School, Sept. 13, 6 p.m.
  • Sleepy Hole — Creekside Recreational Center at Creekside Elementary School, Sept. 15, 6 p.m.
  • Whaleyville — Health & Human Services Building, Sept. 20, 6 p.m.