Jacksonville inches closer to new City Council maps
Jacksonville City Hall.

City_Hall_St_James_Building
Legislation authorizing maps could be drafted by Thanksgiving.

The Jacksonville City Council Redistricting Committee approved a version of a map that, if ultimately approved by the full Council, will set the contours of its 19 districts for the next decade.

That map was largely modeled after the one adopted after the 2010 census, preserving four majority Black districts where Democratic registration is heavily concentrated, and in turn creating a map that is likely to remain predominately Republican in its 14 Council districts despite a Democratic registration advantage in Duval County.

Council members began the meeting consolidating changes at the district level agreed to by individual Council members, including shifts between Democratic District 7 and neighboring Republican District 2, which adds more houses west of Lem Turner.

Carnell Oliver, a member of the public, suggested that districts, such as 4 on the Southside and 14 in Riverside, were seeing younger voters’ power diluted by older voters.

“There’s not a lot of opportunity for fair, competitive elections coming up,” Oliver contended. “It’s that power and control. Old versus new.”

Acting committee chairman Danny Becton, the incumbent Republican from District 11 who is now running for Property Appraiser, defended the process. He said contiguity, compactness, communities of interest, and natural boundaries drove redistricting, along with other considerations such as not sabotaging incumbents.

“Given the traditional districts that we have, 7, 8, 9 and 10 formed in 2000 Redistricting, it is a fine line between the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause,” Becton said.

Becton said the committee “walked through” the process with an eye toward using the current maps as a basis, and he said the staff did an “outstanding job to get us where we are today.”

The At Large Districts almost had drama, with Riverside nearly split between two of them. But ultimately shifts were accomplished to keep the historic neighborhood intact. There was some confusion about whether an at-large district could cross the river. Redistricting consultant Bill Killingsworth deferred to the Office of General Counsel, which concluded that one could.

The process has a long way to go, and time frames are “fluid,” noted a city attorney. Legislation memorializing the maps will have to be filed, and that bill will require staff work before a draft is composed.

That package was proposed to include maps comparing current and proposed districts, a table with population, a declaration of methodology, an appendix of rejected map proposals, and an addendum with any other comments germane to the product.

Committee member Brenda Priestly Jackson, a District 10 Democrat running at-large in 2023, expressed qualms about including maps from so-called “member to member” meetings, proposals that may have not been considered beyond those conclaves.

“I am a bit (reluctant) to have them included as Redistricting Committee maps,” Jackson said, describing what she called a “nuanced interplay” in the smaller meetings.

The full complement of maps will be omitted from the final package.

The committee will review the draft bill with an eye toward legislation as soon as possible, potentially as early as Dec. 14 but as late as Jan. 9.

If approved, that bill will get referred to the Rules Committee, which would require three hearings within 45 days. That timing could affect when the legislation is ultimately introduced, but the maps must be finalized no later than Apr. 12.

“None of this has to be decided today. We’ve got time,” advised Becton, saying the maps are “fairly static” and “looking like one map.”

Becton said that appearances of a lack of public input would be proven false, with a series of opportunities for the public to interact with this process.

The draft language could be home for the holidays, meanwhile.

“We could have it before Thanksgiving,” Killingsworth said. “I don’t expect it would take more than two weeks.”

The committee was in the process of approving the motion, when questions came up of a quorum issue. Happily, three of the five members were in attendance, and they agreed, setting another decade of Jacksonville political history into motion.

Florida Politics will provide links to the maps when available on the redistricting committee website.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]



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