Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors has contacted the 40 members of the Metro Council inviting them to attend an informational meeting regarding the Metro Planning Department’s redistricting efforts that will be needed once decennial U.S. Census Bureau statistics for Davidson County are finalized.
Craig Owensby, planning department spokesman, said Rick Bernhardt, the department’s executive director, will attend the meeting to answers questions council members might have. The meeting is slated for Tuesday, March 1, at 4 p.m. at the Metro Courthouse.
Neighbors said her effort was spurred by a letter Nashville attorney George Barrett sent Jan. 12 to various Metro government entities, including the council, the Metro Legal Department and the Davidson County Election Commission.
Barrett wants the Metro Planning Department to begin redrawing its 35 Metro Council district lines — despite final census number having not arrived — to maximize voter representation accuracy. He wants the process completed promptly and feels the department can have the new district lines to the council for approval before the May 19 qualifying deadline for candidates. Barrett threatened legal action in his Jan. 12 letter.
The planning department should have the final Census numbers no later than the end of May. The election is Aug. 4.
When contacted Wednesday, Neighbors said Barrett’s letter “prompted a lot of conversation” among council members.
City officials contend the redrawing of council districts lines cannot easily be done prior to the May 19 qualifying deadline (the first day for picking up filing petition documents is Friday, Feb. 18). Barrett argues otherwise. He points to 1971, when Metro was able to mesh the collection of decennial census data with the subsequent redrawing of the district borders, without computers, no less, he added.
Neighbors said a key purpose of the meeting is to learn how quickly the final Census numbers can be analyzed and the lines redrawn.
“I don’t know planning’s capabilities or what their process is,” she said.
Barrett, a veteran attorney known for his civil rights, labor and constitutional work, said he will attend the meeting and is cautiously optimistic the redistricting process can be done promptly and efficiently.
“With leadership provided by the vice mayor and the other council members, I’m confident it can be done,” he said.