A letter from Midtown resident Jessica Lavandier:
After the release of the decennial census, City Council boundaries have to be re-drawn so that all council districts have about the same population in order to ensure equal representation. Based on the 2010 census, each district should have about 34,706 people. Between 2000 and 2010, the city of Atlanta population shifted to the northeast. While some areas added population -- particularly Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead -- other areas lost population.
City Council members have been working since August to redraw the council district boundaries so that they have about the same population. In addition, council districts have to comply with the Voting Rights Act, they also work to keep communities of interest intact and not split voting precincts. City Council created four maps and several public hearings were held. They voted on a compromise known as Plan 5. In all of the maps, most of Midtown would be in Council District 2. Small portions of Midtown would be in Council Districts 3 and 6.
School Board districts are based on the boundary of two council districts, for example, Council Districts 1 and 2 from ABOE District 1 – represented by Brenda Muhammad and Council Districts 5 and 6 from ABOE District 3 – represented by Cecily Harsch-Kinanne.
is within the Midtown neighborhood boundary, and under Plan 5, Midtown and Grady High School would be in the same council district – District 2. However, due to the email sent by a Virginia-Highland resident over the New Year’s holiday weekend, many Va-Hi/Morningside residents sent numerous emails to City Council and attended a Committee on Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3 to ask that Grady High School be moved from Council District 2 to Council District 6. The new map is Plan 6. Va-Hi residents argued that they would vote and elect a Board of Education member (District 3) that does not represent the high school they attend. Under Plan 6, Council District 6 residents would vote for a school board member that represents the area that includes all of the schools were they are zoned for – Morningside, Spark and Inman and Grady.
While this may be a positive step for Va-Hi residents, it is not for Midtown. Midtown residents would vote for a school member that does not represent any of the schools that the neighborhood is zoned to attend. At least under Plan 5, Midtown and Grady would be in Brenda Muhammad’s district. In addition, this change splits a community of interest – meaning it splits the Midtown neighborhood. The current voting precinct at Grady High School would not be in our council district.
The City Council redistricting plan is not intended to address school board representation for each neighborhood in relation to the schools that neighborhoods are zoned to attend. This issue is more appropriately handled by the Atlanta School Board members themselves. The Atlanta Board of Education should work to amend the School Board Charter to change Council Districts that compose each School Board District. In order to have a High School in ABOE District 3, the City Council Districts that make up ABOE District 3 should be changed to 2 and 6. This would also more closely match the existing school attendance zones.
Midtown residents are asking City Council to include the boundaries of the Midtown neighborhood and Grady High School in the same City Council [district]. Grady High School is a major landmark in Midtown and it is within the city of Atlanta adopted boundaries of the Midtown neighborhood. In addition, Grady High School is the polling location for at least two Midtown voting precincts.
Ms. Lavandier is a Midtown resident who is the assigned city planner for Neighborhood Planning Unit-E, which covers communities including Midtown, Home Park, Ansley Park, Atlantic Station and Georgia Tech.