The Little Rock Board of Directors, in a vote of 8-2, approved Vice-Mayor Lance Hines’ ordinance that removes the director of planning and development from the redistricting process and places it under the purview of the city manager and “any persons of his choosing.”

The director of planning and development reports to the mayor, while the city manager reports instead to the board. This question of who oversees the ward redrawing process is the latest in an ongoing push-and-pull between the mayor and the board over who calls the shots at City Hall.

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Regardless of who draws boundary lines, the board has the ultimate say on redistricting.

In the past, City Manager Bruce Moore said that he’s worked with the planning department to develop a map, as required with the release of new Census data every 10 years, and then visited individually with each city director, took feedback and made adjustments.

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Hines said the city needed to clarify policies and procedures, pointing to the controversy surrounding the Blackshire settlement as a prime example.

“When we had a loosely held understanding, we see how we’ve been left out in the cold,” Hines said. When he tried to get Census information from Moore, the city manager told him he didn’t have it, that the mayor’s staff had kept it for themselves, Hines said. “I’ll gladly take the mayor’s input,” Hines said. But ultimately redistricting is the board’s decision and he said his ordinance clarified that the board would take input from one of its two employees, the city manager.  

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Hines’ ordinance came a day after Scott shared two draft maps with the board, one of which would dramatically reshape wards.

At-Large Director Antwan Phillips delivered a long and passionate speech against the ordinance, full of sports and pop culture mentions. He referenced ’90s NBA player Anthony Mason, famous for getting in scraps. The board is like Mason, always fighting, he said. “This ordinance is just another fight. It’s unnecessary. It makes it messy.”

He also cited a famous rant from another NBA star, Allen Iverson, about practice. “We talking about drafts!” Phillips said.

Finally, he paraphrased a Jay-Z lyric: “What I’m about to see may not be politically correct and it may offend my political connects.” Phillips said this move eroded a clear line of authority. He said it looked as though the board was pushing back on a mayor “who looks like me.” He said he felt similarly to when the board voted to defer consideration of a small business advisory council he proposed with no discussion (it ultimately passed): That the board was putting him in his place because he was young and black.

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Phillips also said there was a false narrative that he’s always allied with the mayor. “I speak for myself,” he said.

City Director Ken Richardson also voted against the ordinance.