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City redistricting tabled until inmate status clarified
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Thursday, November 08, 2012 10:00 AM
City Council members tabled a redistricting plan Wednesday until they get more information about whether they can legally exclude the inmates at the women's prison.
The second reading will be at the council's first meeting next month, Dec. 4. The redistricting plan must be in place by the end of the year and will remain in place until after the next census.
The new boundaries for council districts, recommended to the full council by a council subcommittee, included 717 people at the prison. That resulted in District 3 council member Pete Backus losing people who can vote and gaining people who cannot vote.
A Massachusetts-based organization is trying to get states and cities to exclude prisoners from their calculations on the grounds that it unbalances the distribution of voters.
Council member Jim Lee, who chaired the committee that recommended new district boundaries, read a long list of state laws that would have to be changed if Indiana decides to exclude prisoners statewide. Some of the changes involve programs such as grants that are population-based. Lee said cities cannot legally decide whom to include and whom to exclude, citing an opinion from the state Elections Division.
Council member Rick Berry, who was on Lee's committee and at the time supported including prisoners in the city's population, said Wednesday that the result is unfair to Backus, who lost friends and other constituents.
Berry said it's possible Madison could legally exclude the prisoners. He said he had expected state Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, whose district includes Madison, to be at the council meeting, but Smith was unable to attend. He likely will be at the meeting Dec. 4, Berry said.
"It was his (Smith's) opinion that there was nothing that would stop us from excluding the prison population" and not be in trouble with the state, Berry said.
Council member Darrell Henderson said the status of prisoners in the city's count likely is a legal question, unless Smith "can prove otherwise," Henderson said. "We need it in black and white. ... I think it needs to be in writing," Henderson said.
Berry said the feelings of the prisoners shouldn't be taken into account in the decision. "They committed crimes. They forfeited that (right to vote). Personally, I don't care how they feel."
Also at the meeting:
The council had the first reading of the pay next year for elected officials and the appointed Board of Works. The amounts include a 2 percent increase like city employees will get, and were discussed during work on the budget. The pay next year will be $60,271 for the mayor; $53,646 for the clerk-treasurer; $6,027 for each of the seven council members; and $998 for two members of the Board of Works. The mayor is the third member of the board but does not get paid extra.
Had the first reading of rezoning from heavy industry to Historic District residential at 1323 W. Second St. The second reading and public hearing will be Nov. 20.
Street superintendent Doug Vest said the city has 850 tons of salt in storage and the fleet has been serviced to be ready for winter.
Police Chief Dan Thurston said he has ideas for countering vandalism downtown, but would not discuss them publicly so as not to tip off anyone.
City attorney Joe Jenner said a letter has been sent to Needful Things on Clifty Drive notifying it that its conditional-use permit was not renewed, so it must close.
Fire Chief Steve Horton said he investigated the scene of a flower-bed fire on Main Street and found nothing "that identified any accidental means" of starting a fire. He said he would not comment further. He thanked firefighters for using fire extinguishers instead of high-pressure hoses to put out the fire because less was disturbed.
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