Population growth patterns reflected in the 2010 Census could mean significant changes to DeKalb County Board of Commissioners Districts 3 and 5, county officials said Thursday night.
DeKalb County Commissioners Jeff Rader (District 2) and Kathie Gannon (Super District 6) hosted the gathering at the One DeKalb Resource Center in to discuss the impact of recent population shifts on the county’s political borders.
Although the Atlanta area has experienced drastic growth, Dekalb grew at a slower pace than bordering counties, said Mike Alexander, research division chief at the Atlanta Regional Commission.
“Metro Atlanta was the growth engine for the state,” he said. “DeKalb really didn’t grow that fast.”
The county’s 3.9 percent growth rate over the last decade was outpaced by all nine other metropolitan counties, most of which are less developed and have a lower cost of living.
“People are moving out to the cheaper property,” Gannon said. “And that’s where they’re going, to the counties that are virtually empty.”
However, Rader and Gannon indicated that pockets of growth in the south of the county could mean big changes for the board of commissioners' District 3 (currently occupied by Larry Johnson) to the southwest, and District 5 (held by Lee May) to the southeast. Click here for a detailed map of the board's current district boundaries.
By law, all representative bodies are required to redistrict every 10 years to accommodate population shifts revealed in the Census. The new commissioners' districts will be decided on by DeKalb’s delegation to the Georgia General Assembly in a special session to be held Aug. 15-26.
Redistricting laws call for districts that experience more than a 5 percent shift in population to be reapportioned, Gannon said. Only Districts 3 and 5 saw more than a 5 percent change in population. District 3 lost 11.8 percent of its population, and District 5’s population grew by 24 percent, she said.
Rader urged county residents to be wary of drastic changes to districts other than 3 and 5, alleging that such changes would be politically motivated.
“If you see a lot of changes going on (in northern half of the county) it has little to do with population and everything to do with politics,” he said.
He also urged residents to follow the General Assembly’s special session closely and make their voices heard since local redistricting is often overshadowed by state and federal reapportionment.
“You won’t hear about our redistricting on the nightly news,” he said.
Gannon said she hopes the board of commissioners can submit their own redistricting plan to DeKalb’s state delegation.
“What I’m hoping to do is for the county commissioners to do their own horse trading and make their own map,” she said.
Asked whether she thought the board of commissioners could come to such a consensus, Gannon answered simply, “Yes.”