Bay St. Louis & Waveland Work To Revamp City Governments - - The News for South Mississippi

Bay St. Louis & Waveland Work To Revamp City Governments

As the cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland work to recover from Katrina's devastation, both will be revamping the structure of city government.

The July Annexation ruling expanded the boundaries and populations of each city. Now representation must increase on the Bay St. Louis City Council and Waveland's Board of Aldermen.

Tony Smith is among Bay St. Louis's newest citizens. His Shoreline Park neighborhood recently became part of the city. He says having a voice on the city council is a must to represent his neighborhood's interests.

"For the roads and just general maintenance around here. Right now, it still looks terrible around here. Without somebody representing us, I don't know if we're going to get anything done back here."

Leaders in both cities are working to extend representation to their newest citizens.

"Our wishes have been, since day one, is to give representation to this new area that's just recently been annexed," Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo said.

The U.S. Justice Department requires the cities to draw new district lines based on the 2000 census. But local leaders are certain the population today is much lower, because of Katrina.

Mayor Longo said, "It's not an easy task during normal times and with Katrina it makes it even more difficult. We have people that hopefully are continuing to come back in those areas. So all we can do is use the pre-Katrina numbers."

Bay St. Louis Councilman-At-Large Bill Taylor echoed his words.

"My understanding is it would cost $75,000 and upward to get an actual count of people who are actually out there, so you'd have to go to that expense. But on the other hand, people who still have their residences out there, but aren't out there right now, are still allowed to vote in local elections here."

The Justice Department has given the cities several options. They include expanding current ward lines to include the annexed areas or creating new wards in those areas.

The options aren't important to Tony Smith, just as long as he gets to vote for someone to represent him and his neighbors.

Bay St. Louis has until December 30 to work out a plan and get it approved by the Justice Department. Waveland faces a tougher challenge. It hopes to get a stamp of approval before city elections in November.

by Al Showers

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