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City to include inmates in redistricting
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 10:00 AM
The Madison City Council approved a redistricting plan Tuesday after earlier delaying a vote to determine whether or not inmates in local prisons or jails should be represented.
The approved plan will include the inmates.
The council passed the measure by a 5-2 vote. The state mandated the redistricting plans be finished before Dec. 31.
Councilmen Rick Berry and Pete Backus, the two who voted against the redistricting plan, suggested the council suspend the rules to allow discussion prior to a vote.
Discussions had been ongoing to determine whether 717 inmates at the Madison Correctional Facility and 80 inmates at the Jefferson County Jail should be included in the new districts, based on 2010 U.S. Census data.
The primary argument against including the inmates was that it would skew the representation in District 3, where the Madison Correctional Facility is located. The inmate population makes up about 30 percent of the population in District 3, which is represented by Backus.
Bob Waller, a resident of District 2, urged the council not to include the prisoners. He provided statistics from other communities to support his position. Waller said he wished he'd gotten involved in the conversation earlier, but said he got involved because he believes in equal representation.
"The thought that any vote wouldn't be as important as someone else's really bothered me," he said.
The redistricting proposal also puts 80 people from the Jefferson County Jail into District 1, which is represented by Councilman Dick Jones. Jones has been the most vocal advocate on the council for keeping the prisoners in the redistricting count.
"In my view, it's not our job to represent voters. It's our job to represent all people," Jones said, echoing his comments from the previous meeting.
Individuals under the age of 18 are represented by the council members, as are elderly people who may not be able to get out to vote, he said.
"It's still our job to represent them whether they vote for us or not," he said.
A proposed bill in the Indiana House that would address the prison count issue has been stuck in a study committee and has made no significant progress.
Berry said he had been waiting for a response from the Attorney General's office about the legality of excluding prisoners from the count when he had been informed he had to contact the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. He did not receive an answer from them before Tuesday's meeting began.
In other business, the council approved David Powell and Libby Mann to the city Historic District Board of Review. Powell will finish out the remaining year of the term of Virginia Jorgensen, who died in October. Mann is taking over for Paul Davis, who chose not to serve another term.
Additional announcements that were made at the meeting include:
The street department announced it collected 281 tons of leaves during a nine-week city-wide vacuuming period. Superintendent Doug Vest said anyone with additional leaves can put them in compost bags and they will be picked up on the city's regular pick-up schedule.
Building inspector Mark Johnson said the sidewalk in front of the former Elks building has been closed off while workers install a roof on the building. It is expected to be closed off for roughly three more weeks. City officials have formed a make-shift sidewalk out of barricades and caution tape in the parking spaces in front of the building.
Trash will not be picked up Christmas Day. Trash pick-up will be delayed one day for the rest of the week.
The Brown Gym will be closed Monday and Tuesday for the holiday. City Hall will also be closed those two days.
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