Former councilman: Leave city districts alone

By: By Katelin Gandee - Staff reporter
John Alford

LAURINBURG — As part of tonight’s annual planning retreat, the Laurinburg City Council may broach the subject of how its districts are drawn.

But one former city councilman urged city leaders to leave District 1 and District 2 as is.

John Alford, who once represented District 1 on council, said changing the lines could dilute minority representation on the Laurinburg council.

“It would change the board as it is today,” he said.

Alford, now a Scotland County commissioner, said he and other black leaders worked successfully in the 1970s to create District 1 as a majority-minority district. The change made the voting district about 67 percent black and 33 percent white.

Alford said the revamped maps have kept a black member on the five-person council since the lines were redrawn. District 1 is currently represented by Curtis Leak and Mary Evans, who are both black.

Mayor Matthew Block had asked earlier this month that the topic be included during the retreat to explore how the districts are configured.

According to Block, council may want to consider balancing the districts so voters were more equally represented. District 1 currently has 4,708 registered voters and District 2 has 5,904 registered voters.

Alford said giving black voters a voice on council is also important.

“There hasn’t been any racial tension since the lines were drawn,” Alford said. “I would hope our mayor would understand this. It will not make anything better, but worse.”

Leak has also expressed concerns about any change to the districts and said tonight’s discuss should include a history on why the lines were configured to begin with.

Evans, who joined the council in December, said she was open to at least having a discussion about the districts.

City Manager Charles Nichols said he will share with council the process used to alter the lines. City officials said any change to the districts would likely have to have approval by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Councilwoman Mary Jo Adams, who resents District 2, questioned if the proposed change was politically motivated to help Block or his candidates in a district where his support is not as strong.

Planning session

Council is also expected to use tonight retreat to discuss a myriad of issues that the city plans tackle in the new year. The planning session begins at 5 p.m. at the Scotland County Economic Development Center off U.S. 401. It is open to the public.

Other topics expected to be on tonight’s retreat agenda include: crime; beautification; downtown Laurinburg; community partnerships; landlord accountability; and sidewalk expansions; and an update on the city fiber initiative

John Alford John Alford

By Katelin Gandee

Staff reporter

Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171

Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171