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Redistricting ‘Rubik’s Cube,’ Briggs says

“It’s a Rubik’s Cube, is what it is,” Dr. Richard Briggs, Knox County commissioner 5C, said of the County’s redistricting plans currently being studied by committee.

At its most recent meeting June 23, the County redistricting committee discussed two plans to redraw commission districts by the 2010 election then added one more for discussion at its next meeting.

“They went backward about two meetings,” Briggs said.

The original plans for consideration were commonly referred to as plans 3 and 7A. Plan 7A was submitted by the town of Farragut.

“They’re all imperfect, but we came up with the best overall plan,” Alderman John Williams said.

Both plans 3 and 7A keep Farragut intact.

At the meeting, County Commissioners Michele Carringer, Ivan Harmon and Thomas “Tank” Strickland, all members of the redistricting committee, asked that Plan 6, a plan designed around the County’s nine school districts, be put back on the table.

However, Briggs said he did not expect that plan to get very far.

“It’s not going to get anywhere,” he said, largely because it did not comply with very many of the original requirements, such as not moving more than 10 percent of the County’s population to a new district, keeping communities intact and leaving incumbent commissioners in their districts.

Plan 6 moves three commissioners out of their districts, and leaves no incumbent commissioners in District 6. The plan also moves more than 10 percent of the population to a new Commission district.

Plan 6 keeps Farragut together, but moves the entire community to District 6, the current Hardin Valley/Karns district.

Plan 3 moves five commissioners out of their districts. Plan 7A only moves one, District 5 Commissioner Mike Hammond, who has intimated he will not seek re-election and will support Plan 7A.

However, Plan 7A caught flak for separating or moving some communities, such as Powell, Halls and Gresham.

“[The committee members] were arguing … over what community a certain precinct belonged to because they don’t have defined borders like Farragut does,” Briggs said.

Another objection to Plan 7A was that Crestwood Hills subdivision, in Cedar Bluff, would be separated into two separate districts. The 700-home subdivision is represented in two voting precincts.

“It’s an unfortunate circumstance in the plan we devised, but it is really a problem to be solved at the precinct level, not the district level,” Williams said of the two precincts, which together house a population of 15,000.

“Plan 7A meets all the requirements; all the other plans have multiple deficiencies,” former alderman Tom Rosseel, an architect of Farragut’s plan, said.

Briggs said it was unlikely the committee could find a plan everyone will be happy with.

“Nobody, as far as the commissioners, [is] going to say ‘I like the plan,’ but I think they may say, at least with the 7A Plan, ‘This is the one I have the least objections to,’” Briggs said.

The districts are being redrawn before the 2010 election because of a charter amendment decreasing the number of County Commissioners from 19 to 11, meaning the districts must be roughly equal in size. Precincts and districts will have to be redrawn after the 2010 census to reflect population changes.


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