This month’s County Commissioners’ meeting was far from normal as many citizens attended to hear the discussion of the Redistricting of Pushmataha County. Due to the high volume of individuals attending (60 plus citizens) the meeting was moved to the Community room in order to accommodate the large turnout.
Another meeting will be held at the Antlers High School Auditorium on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. Commissioners have arranged this meeting expressly for the purpose of informing the citizens of Pushmataha County about the changes and challenges that the county would face if redistricted and to allowing the public to sign a Petition objecting against the redistricting. All concerned citizens are urged to attend.
During the regularly scheduled meeting, Commissioners went over the impact that this redistricting would have on citizens. For example, If you lived in Antlers you could possibly end up with a Commissioner in Clayton, and if you live in Clayton your Commissioner might be in Antlers. Not only would Commissioners change, so could your polling place. Some voters who live in Antlers might be forced to travel to a location as far away as Finley, if not farther, to vote.
The changes to be made resulted from the 2010 Census, which showed a change in population distribution that is now making the federal government want to redistrict the entire county. District #1 showed to have the most population with the fewest number of roads, District #2 is approximately 200 people short of what is needed and District #3 would need an additional 800 people to fit the criteria mandated by the government. The job the Commissioners face is to adjust the population of districts within a margin of 5%.
Brittinghams says that this makes the new districts completely impractical and most of the money that the County receives in taxes would be going to the fuel and maintenance of equipment after being required to travel longer distances to repair roads and maintain their district. For example, if you are used to getting your road graded once a week, with the stretching of funds and increased travel that will be put on the Commissioners, and their crews, it might be a month or longer before you see your road being graded again. Not to mention longer periods between mowing of ditches and right aways.
According to Brittingham, if forced to change districts as suggested, it would basically cripple the County as far as what each District is budgeted to spend on equipment, man power and supplies. District #1 would take an area of Antlers to the Latimer County line, District #2 could be changed to include Ethel Road and possibly Airport Road and the Hall Community and District #3 could take in the area from Albion into another section of Antlers. The City of Antlers would be split into three districts.
However, citizens aren’t the only ones who are going to be affected. There are repercussions for our Commissioners as well. If the County Commissioners fail to redistrict according to population they could be removed from office and then the task would be given to the Pushmataha County Excise Board.
“We (commissioners) are here to do what the citizens of Pushmataha County want us to do,” said Michael Brittingham, County Commissioner of District #1. “If you want us to stand up for our County and try to keep it the way it is we will, even if it means we might loose our jobs.”
Brittingham noted that his biggest concern about the redistricting of Pushmataha County was that the County dollars would be inadequate to handle both the jobs needing to be done and the extra miles of fuel and hours consumed by traveling from, basically, the bottom of the county to the top. Not to mention the concerns about if we have another bad winter like the last, they might not be able to get to the northern sections of the county, and vica-versa for the other commissioners.
Senator Ellis and Representative Pruett have also expressed that they are standing behind the Commissioners and will go with them to the capital to fight against the redistricting. Senator Ellis plans to attend Thursday’s meeting as well.
The main thing that the Commissioners and citizens of Pushmataha County have going for us is that this proposed redistricting contradicts statute 19 O.S. § 321 which says that districts must be as COMPACT and as equal in population AS PRACTICAL. There doesn’t seem to be much practicality in mind with the proposed redistricting grids.
If you have concerns about Pushmataha County being redistricted County Commissioners are urging you to attend the meeting at the Antlers High School Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, 2011 and sign the Petition. If you have questions about the meeting or have any ideas about how to make a redistricting plan work without wasting County tax dollars, please call Michael Brittingham, County Commissioner of District #1 at 580-298-3113 or 580-271-1606.