New ward lines may shift some Gulfport political clout northward

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - More of the political clout in Gulfport may be about to shift northward, according to Ward Six Council Member R. Lee Flowers. On Monday, residents will get the chance to see several proposals for redrawing the city's ward lines.

The 2010 census showed that a large number of Gulfport residents have a different address now than they did five years earlier. Some homeowners in Northwood Hills say since Hurricane Katrina, they have a lot more neighbors.

Crystal Reaves of Gulfport said, "There wasn't that many out here in this area, but it's getting thicker and thicker each year."

As the city adjusts the lines of its seven wards, Flowers said Orange Grove's population boom cannot be overlooked.

"For a long time the population south of the interstate was much greater north of the interstate in the city of Gulfport," said Flowers. "This population shift has allowed us to draw a district that there's a good chance that a third representative on the city council would live north of the interstate."

"A lot of folks in Orange Grove area would like to have more of a voice in their city government, and this would give them that," Flowers said.

Flowers said to account for fewer people living near the coastline, the council is endorsing a move that would, for the first time, create a ward along the beach front.

"People moved away and didn't rebuild as quickly as they thought they would. So there's less dense population along the coast," said Flowers. "Since they all share a similar impact type being along beach, we grouped them as one ward."

The change would combine wards two and five represented by Libby Milner-Roland and Ricky Dombrowski.

Before Gulfport can submit the plan to the Justice Department, the city needs to know what the people think.

"What we'd like to see is their input. Hear their input to see if there are some neighborhoods that if possible, they could say we would prefer to be in this ward instead of that ward," Flowers said.

Ward Three Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines said she supports the plan that would keep her ward entirely south of the Interstate. She said she's opposed to any attempt to extend Ward Seven into North Gulfport.

The meeting on the proposed wards will be held on Monday, July 18th at 6 p.m. at the Gulfport City Council Chambers.

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