Mobile City Council Speaker is stepping back as a co-sponsor of Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s redistricting plan days before it is officially presented to council for consideration.
Councilman CJ Small, in a statement Friday, said while he originally agreed to be a co-sponsor of Stimpson’s redistricting order, he has now decided to “step back.”
“I appreciate all of the hard work the administration has put into this process and mapping the law over the past few months, but this clearly continues to be of great concern to our citizens,” Small said. “It is important for our citizens to know that we will take the feedback they provide seriously over the coming weeks.”
Small’s comment comes a day after the group, Stand Up Mobile – which focuses on increasing black voter turnout – accused Stimpson’s redistricting plan of not including a fourth council district with at least 52% of its voting age population is black.
“At this point, being just one or two percentage points short, we have little doubt that this is something the mayor and council can and should do for our citizens, especially with the future of our community. and the city is at stake,” reads the organization’s statement.
Stimpson on Thursday unveiled his final redistricting plan which will be brought to the council for further consideration. The plan counts four districts with a black majority in both the overall population and the voting-age population. Districts 1, 2 and 3 have well over 60% black under the plan.
The focus is on District 7, an area in northwest Mobile. Under Stimpson’s plan, the district’s proposed voting age demographics are 50.6% black, 44.6% white, or a change from the existing split of 46.5% black and 47, 9% white.
Stimpson delivered the final draft of his redistricting plan for the council district on Thursday to beat the Feb. 12 deadline for it to be submitted as an ordinance to the council.
Stimpson’s statement on Thursday said Small had agreed to be a co-sponsor of the prescription, before withdrawing his sponsorship on Friday. Two other council members – Joel Daves and Gina Gregory – are listed as co-sponsors of the order. Gregory is the current councilor for District 7.
“I am grateful that two of my colleagues have volunteered to sponsor the ordinance so that it can move forward, and I applaud the administration for its willingness to fund a study on racial polarization, if it is approved by the board,” Small said. “I hope my colleagues will see the value of an independent third-party study, which would allow all of our citizens to feel confident in a final map.”
The mayor’s redistricting plan was submitted after public hearings were held in each of the council’s seven districts. The administration also included online forums and presentations. Interactive versions of the map were also updated daily online.
“Putting constituency cuts at the heart of democracy is why we began this process with a commitment to provide unprecedented transparency and achieve fair representation,” Stimpson said. “To achieve this goal, we have given Mobilians many opportunities to participate in the redistricting process. We listened and the map submitted (Thursday) is the product of feedback and suggestions from the community as well as the seven board members. In this process, we have proven that in Mobile City, we are still able to listen to each other, respect each other, and compromise to do what is right for the whole community.
Stimpson said Tuesday he would submit a redistricting plan that includes at least four black majority districts based on voting age. But some black pastors and other activists have criticized the mayor for not going far enough, arguing that the only real way to have a majority black council is to have District 7 at least 52% black.
Mobile city council redistricting has drawn a lot of attention in recent weeks, and warnings from the Southern Poverty Law Center about not diluting the city’s black vote through redistricting.
The issue comes after the 2020 US Census showed the overall demographics of Mobile’s population to be 51.3% black and 40.8% white, a change from 50.4% black and 45.5% white in 2010.
The voting age population is smaller. The city, although represented by 55.6% people of color, has a voting age population of 48.4% black and 44.4% white.