Charles Mann: County Council redistricting did not honor public input

Members of Spartanburg County Council: 

I am writing this open letter to share my disappointment in your efforts around the redistricting of County Council districts.

I initiated communication with all members of the County Council in June and November of 2021. Both times, I wrote a letter requesting information and timelines for County Council redistricting. Disappointingly, I received only one response – from Councilwoman Jessica Coker – requesting I speak to council during regular session.

During the January 2022 meeting, I spoke to County Council requesting public input and open sessions regarding redistricting. Only District 1 Councilman Monier Abusaft responded, and he held a public input session on Feb. 10, 2022, at the Dr. TK Gregg Community Center. During that session, proposed county maps were presented by Assistant County Administrator Kevin Stiens, the state NAACP, and the Spartanburg Local Redistricting Advisory Committee (LRAC). Sadly, that session ended with Councilman Abusaft stating he would not consider our input and would only consider the county’s proposed maps. In essence, he slammed the door on public input.

Two weeks following that session, I joined a member of the LRAC to speak at the Feb. 24 council meeting. We asked for public sessions outside of council meetings, and we asked for their opinions of public input from Councilman Abusaft’s public input session. To my outraged surprise, the other six members of County Council were not aware of our input on redistricting. I directly asked Chairman Manning Lynch for a response, but he had not seen or reviewed the submitted maps. Now, this is disturbing because the county had put maps up in county library branches asking for public input.

Chairman Lynch did ask the assistant county administrator and Councilman Abusaft for their opinions. Again, Councilman Abusaft discounted the input received from the LRAC and NAACP.  But more importantly, the councilman never shared input from his public input session with fellow members on council. How could he not share this information?

At the Feb. 24 general meeting, council indicated it would take its final and third reading on March 7 during regular session. On March 3 at 5:15 p.m., council posted on its website that a public hearing would be held on redistricting at 2 p.m. on March 7 – in essence giving only three days’ notice of the public hearing, which was scheduled during the workday. 

The regular council meeting, scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on March 7, was not streamed live and the redistricting maps were approved without discussion.

Fellow citizens of Spartanburg County, our elected representatives did not operate in an environment of fairness nor consideration during this process. They did not honestly consider public input. They did not fairly hold public hearings outside of council meetings for the public to attend. Yes, they did hold one public meeting that was announced with only three days’ notice for a meeting during the workday. They appeared to have their minds made up when the process started. 

Spartanburg County councilmembers made a mockery of asking the public for input on a very important matter. County Council’s decision on district lines will last for the next 10 years, until 2031.We deserve better from all of our locally elected office holders. 

Charles Mann

Vice Chairman, SIREN

Member, Spartanburg Local Redistricting Advisory Committee 

South Carolina Redistricting Advocate

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