American Legion post pays tribute to fallen

Euphina Irvin places a boutonniere Sunday on the lapel of American Legion member Harry Smalls as he stands next to Leroy Ward outside Mother Emmanuel AME Church.

Charleston City Council unanimously approved a plan Tuesday that reduces the number of majority-black voting districts from five to three.

The redistricting plan was finalized only about an hour before the council meeting.

Districts 3, 4 and 7 will remain majority-black districts, and the voting-age population in Districts 6 and 9 will be more than 20 percent black.

The biggest changes will occur in District 5, represented by Jimmy Gallant, and District 6, represented by William Dudley Gregorie. District 5 will be moved off the peninsula into western West Ashley and Johns Island. Gallant could find himself competing against fellow African-American James Lewis to represent District 3 this fall. Gallant voted against initial approval of the plan May 10.

"We worked the numbers all we could, but the bottom line is we have lost the African-American population on the peninsula," Gallant said. "We've accepted the best thing we could have done."

Gregorie, who also opposed the plan last time, will lose the black majority in District 6. "People are people, and I represent all the people," he said. "I clearly believe I have crossover appeal."

Gregorie won't have to compete in a white-majority district if he wins the fall's mayoral race. "I don't plan to be available for that race anyway. I plan to be the mayor," he said.

The plan must be approved by the city and the U.S. Justice Department by Aug. 1, when filing begins for odd-numbered council seats.

Council also unanimously passed first reading of a land swap to keep construction of new buildings for Buist Academy and James Simons Elementary schools on track.

The agreement is expected to pass its second and third readings June 21 to go into effect.

The agreement would swap five city properties on which the schools intend to build -- three for Buist Academy and two for James Simmons Elementary -- for district-owned downtown Corrine Jones Park, which is used as a green space for surrounding neighborhoods. Since the city properties are appraised at $2.9 million and the park only at $647,300, the district would owe the city $2.3 million after the swap.

But, instead of paying the city that money now, the district would invest at least that much in helping rebuild Burke High's Stoney Field athletic facility.