Mayor asks for review of district maps

By: By Katelin Gandee - Staff reporter

LAURINBURG — Mayor Mathew Block said he would like city leaders to explore how District 1 and District 2 are configured so the voting precincts are more proportional.

A possible change in district lines is one of the topics the Laurinburg City Council is expected to discuss during a retreat at the end of the month. The annual retreat is planned for Jan. 30 at 5 p.m. at the Scotland County Economic Development Center off U.S. 401. The meeting is open to the public.

“I think we should just to get the numbers in District 2 versus District 1 and see what the difference is,” Block said. “I think council members should be representing equal numbers of people, roughly.”

According to Scotland County Board of Elections, District 1 has 4,708 registered voters while District 2 has 5,904 registered voters.

Councilwoman Mary Jo Adams questioned if Block’s interest in the districts was motivated by politics. If so, she said it should not be included as a topic for the retreat.

“Especially since we’re talking about the district you lost,” Adams told Block. “Is there a real motivation or is it politically motivation? If it’s a real motivation, then we need to look at it. If it’s just so you can try and get someone else elected then that’s not really a reason to discuss it and spend a long time on it.”

But Block said he was only concerned that the districts be balanced.

“Whether or not the difference in registered voters is significant enough to consider moving the district border further south, that’s the only purpose of it,” he said. “If council doesn’t want to discuss it its no big deal. I’ve just noticed it over the years that voters in one district versus the other is a big difference.”

Council members Mary Evans and James Garby each said they would like to include the topic at the retreat.

“I want to discuss it,” Evans said. “I want to be educated on it.”

Still Councilman Curtis Leak said any discussion on district lines changes should include the history on how the districts were created. According to Leak, the current maps were reconfigured during the 1960s to ensure that blacks were better represented on council.

“You can take me forward … but I ain’t going back,” Leak said.

City Attorney William Floyd said the Department of Justice would likely be involved in any change to the districts.

Retreat topics

Council will also review a change in its monthly meeting time — moving it up one hour from 7 to 6 p.m; as well as a laundry list of other city-related issues. The session will also be used to start the city’s budget process.

In addition to district lines, Block said he would also like the city to discuss a reduction in its water rate at the retreat. Other topics recommended by the mayor include: crime; beautification; downtown Laurinburg; and the feasibility of a spec building on US 74.

Councilwoman Evans said she would like the retreat to include a discussion on recreation/community partnerships; hiring a crime consultant; slumlord accountability; and sidewalk expansions.

Councilman Drew Williams said he wanted to get an update on the city fiber initiative and review the Electricities Economic development plan.

Councilwoman Adams said she wanted o discuss the possibility of the city finance director making quarterly presentations to council. She said she would also like to define the purpose and use of the “delegation” item on council agendas.

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Some wonder if request is politically motivated

By Katelin Gandee

Staff reporter