The Birmingham City Council has set a March 29 public hearing to discuss proposed changes to the city’s council districts based on 2020 census data.
Last month, the council hired Crimcard Consulting Services to lead the redistricting process, which is required each decade by city law. After several individual meetings with councilors, Crimcard presented proposed districts to the council Feb. 14.
A digital map of the proposed changes has not yet been made available; that information will be shared on the city’s website this week, officials said, but video of the presentation is available on the council’s Facebook page.
The redistricting process has already proven controversial, with District 3 Councilor Valerie Abbott expressing dismay that part of the Five Points South neighborhood would be reassigned to District 6, currently represented by Council President Pro Tem Crystal Smitherman.
“The heart of my district… really looks like it’s had a large shark bite taken out of it where Five Points South is,” Abbott said at the Feb. 14 presentation. “That was a big concern to me because I have an affinity for the heart of my district, and the heart has been ripped out. I had inquired of Councilor Smitherman if she would take back what she already has and I could keep what I already have, but she declined, and I wish she’d change her mind, because I’m just heartbroken over it … . I would just like to keep what I have.”
Crimcard founder Kareem Crayton said the changes were made because District 6 needed to gain population so that all council districts could be of roughly equal size — a stipulation required by city law. “Change is not easy and I respect that, and you all ultimately have a choice as to whether this recommendation is the way you want to go,” Crayton said. “It’s our best opinion at present that this is the configuration that makes the most sense.”
On Tuesday, councilors considered publishing alternative redistricting proposals for public consideration, but assistant city attorney Julie Barnard suggested it was “preferable that the map you advertise when you set out this (public hearing) notice is the one that’s going to be discussed at the public hearing.”
“Now, once you get to the public hearing, if you hear things and want to make changes (you can),” Barnard said. “I don’t want to confuse the public.”
The public hearing is scheduled for March 29 at 5:30 p.m. If approved, the changes to the map would go into effect for the 2025 council and board of education elections or earlier, if a special-called election is needed to fill a vacancy.