Beaufort News

County Council hears feedback on new district proposals

Three competing maps for new Beaufort County Council and Board of Education districts are officially under consideration, but several people suggested at a public hearing Tuesday that those plans don't meet community needs.

"When I saw that St. Helena, for example, would be represented by the same person who represented the relatively urbanized part of the City of Beaufort, I wondered whose voice would be heard the most," Alison Davidow, a committeewoman for the Beaufort County Democratic Party, told council's Redistricting Committee.

Rather than taking his usual spot on the dais, Councilman Steve Baer addressed the group as a citizen to present an alternate plan for districts on Hilton Head Island.

All of the maps under consideration use the same district layout on Hilton Head. Baer said this plan would reduce the minority population in his district, which he said is the largest minority district on the island.

To be officially considered, Baer's plan would need approval from the Redistricting Committee. Because all of those plans must then be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, which reviews district lines to safeguard minority representation, committee members have expressed interest in limiting the number of plans considered.

"I'm afraid that it's very difficult to get plans into the process," Baer said.

Fran White, a member of the Hilton Head and Bluffton branch of the NAACP, urged consideration of Baer's proposal, which she said would "consolidates the minority interests and districts in a much better fashion than any of those that you see."

Davidow suggested the council look deeper -- to income, education and voter participation -- when grouping communities into districts.

"The only interest that I saw really in these maps was that of diversity," Davidow said. "I don't believe that we help ourselves when we create two safe African-American districts. I think that we have many more things in common and we ought to explore those and share them."