New Council Districts
Delmar to Fenwick
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Graphic: Click the map below for a larger version on the Sussex County Council web site.
After much discussion about political motivations, Sussex County Council unanimously approved the redistricting of the county's five councilmanic district at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2001.
State law requires that all districts be within 5 percent of each other in terms of population. In the 2000 census, Councilman George Cole's district had grown to 39,000 residents, or nearly 20 percent above the ideal balance of 31,300 residents per district.
The major changes in the new election districts involve Council member Vance Phillips' district and the addition of a third council member for the coastal zone.
A Republican, Councilman Phillips' district had been largely in the southwestern corner of the county but it now stretches from Delmar in the west to Fenwick Island and South Bethany in the east.
Phillips, with Fenwick Island and South Bethany, joins council members Cole and Lynn Rogers as representatives of coastal towns. Cole represents the coastal communities of Bethany, Dewey and Rehoboth beaches and Rogers represents Lewes and part of Rehoboth.
In terms of population, District No. 1 (Dale Dukes) will have 29,836 people, District No. 2 (Finley B. Jones) will have 31,245, District No. 3 (Rogers) will have 31,581, District No. 4 (Cole) will have 31,368, and District No. 5 (Phillips) will have 32,608.
Although the new district lines were approved unanimously, they faced scrutiny from Councilman George Cole, Wolfgang VonBaumgart of the Sussex County Chapter of the Independent Party of Delaware, and Greenwood resident Dan Kramer.
Cole, a Republican, mostly questioned if politics had entered into the redistricting plan. The plan was drawn up by county attorney Eugene Bayard, Richard Carter, the chief administrative official to the Delaware Senate Majority (Democratic) Caucus, and Ken McDowell.
Cole said it was important for the public to understand that politics does enter into redistricting plans but his opinion wasn't shared by Councilmen Phillips or Lynn Rogers or Council President Dale Dukes.
"I feel it was done fairly," said Dukes. "There were no political ploys in this thing."
"If it were political, this would have put Mr. Cole in a district with a bunch of developers and he'd be out," said Rogers.
Dukes further stated that drafters of the new lines could have pitted two councilmen against each other if they were truly interested in partisan politics.
VanBaumgarten, meanwhile, stated the Independent Party of Delaware's position that the council should be increased to seven members and that district lines should be redrawn along natural eco-systems to better create districts whose constituents hold similar interests.
County Administrator Robert L. Stickels, in response to a question from Kramer, said such an increase in council members, plus support staff for the additional council members, would cost the county $250,000 a year.
VanBaumgarten, looking at the five white males on council, also questioned why district lines couldn't be redrawn to assure that council better represents the diverse population of the county including women and minorities.
Stickels questioned why such concerns hadn't been raised during the redistricting process when council had posted the new maps on the Internet and in the county adminstration building lobby.
Cole, for his part, said he was fine with his new district's lines but just wanted the public to understand how the process works.In Other Business ...
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