Hillsborough County redistricting maps create tension over Black representation

Ken Hagan said rejecting the only Black Commissioner's map made him nauseous.

The Hillsborough County Commission completed its decennial redistricting process with a split decision this week.

The final version of the Commission’s map was adopted during a public hearing Tuesday. Commissioners voted 4-3 to adopt Revised Map E — provided by Commissioner Pat Kemp. Commissioners Ken Hagan, Gwen Myers and Stacey White voted no.

Two other maps, one from Myers and one from Commissioner Harry Cohen, were also considered. Much of the debate centered on Myers’s Map F and Kemp’s Map E.

Myers represents District 3 and is the only person of color on the board. One of the board’s mandates was to not reduce minority representation, particularly among the Black population in District 3. The adopted Map E sets District 3 as 44% White and 39% Black. Myers’s map would have increased Black representation to 39.1%. That slight increase, she said, could have had a major impact on minority representation as Tampa grows.

Myers said she fears the adopted map could remove Black voices from the County Commission dais.

“I found something very troubling. Map E revised adds 2,528 White people and a mere 435 Blacks,” she said. “This creates a net loss of 655 Blacks in District 3. There’s 39.1% in my map. Again, .1 does make a difference. Particularly in a time of gentrification.”

How to best draw District 3 was the top priority among commissioners this cycle. Ten years ago, it was drawn with a 39% Black population. But over the last decade, that has shrunk to around 33%.

The League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus endorsed Kemp’s Map E.

Hagan, a Republican, accused Kemp and Cohen of drawing maps to benefit their own districts and called the partisanship in their versions the “worst kept secret in County Center.”

Hagan stood by Myers and praised her map for its equity toward the Black community and nonpartisanship in other districts. He admonished the board’s White members for claiming to know what’s best for the Black community over the only serving Black Commissioner.

He said Commissioners chose playing politics over supporting racial equity.

“What amazes me is that we have our only African American Commissioner, the head of the NAACP, former Commissioner Tom Scott, former State Rep. Ed Narain, Gerald White (and) dozens of African American activists that you heard this evening who are in support of Commissioner Myer’s most recent map,” Hagan said. “And yet we have two White, at-large Commissioners who either say or imply that they know what’s best for the African American community and they know better than our only African American Commissioner and those African American leaders. I find this so offensive and galling it makes me nauseous.”

Hillsborough County has seven Commission seats. Three are countywide seats, but four are single-member. Those districts are redrawn every 10 years based on Census data.

District 2 also saw significant changes. The new map puts all of Temple Terrace into Hagan’s District 2, which would make it more difficult for him to win as a Republican.

The adopted map will now be sent to Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


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