The Orange City Council and its Charter Change Committee ended a second meeting Tuesday to move forward with a March ballot recommendation: a seven-seat council with four positions from specified districts and three seats at-large including the mayor’s.

Still ahead are discussions of majority voting, which could require runoff elections; versus plurality voting – where the winner is the top vote-getter – as well as for term limits. 

City Attorney John Cash Smith pointed out Tuesday that most cities do not adopt runoff policies because they produce greater expense than plurality elections and usually see very low voter turnout.
Council and committee members will meet again at 2 p.m. Nov. 24 in the Orange Public Library’s Williamson Room.

Mayor Brown Claybar said he felt like all council members should be interested in the city, and as such all residents should vote for them. The present council make up is five at-large seats. 

Historically, he said, Orange has a history of voting for minority candidates, and as an example noted the addresses of three former minority council members: Deborah Mitchell on the city’s west side, Cynthia Jackson on the east side and Charles Guillory on the north side.

Committee member and former Orange Mayor Essie Bellfield agreed with Claybar, saying that when she was elected in the late ‘90s it was by a large majority of white voters. Bellfield was Orange’s first African-American mayor.

Ed Hawthorne, a retired community member in the audience, commented that what led to the council’s lack of minorities was the annexation of Little Cypress.

“We (the minority community) didn’t start this,” he said. “They (Little Cypress) wanted to vote their own people in office so they could overturn the annexation.”

Council member Jeff Holland, whose seat was, until 2008, a traditionally minority-voted position; replied that while in favor of the charter change he did not believe he won his election based on a majority of Little Cypress votes.

Committee member Henry Lowe added, “The people who sent me here … feel like they are under-represented under this at-large format. [Under a new system], my representative would be the one that I would expect to look out for the district that he or she represents.”

The city voted in the at-large system in the late ‘50s, Smith said.
If the city is eventually divided into four demographic districts for voting purposes, Claybar said the 2010 census figures may be very different from the 2000 results; owing to two major hurricanes and the new Cypresswood apartment complex in the southwest part of town.