TAMPA — For four of its members, life on the Tampa City Council means representing a district that basically covers one-quarter of the city.
And those districts, called single-member districts, are supposed to represent roughly the same number of people.
But as Tampa grew from 303,447 residents in 2000 to 341,874 today, its population shifted, with the inner-city population shrinking and other areas attracting new residents.
Since 2000, the district that covers East Tampa, represented by Frank Reddick, has seen its population drop about 1.7 percent to 77,453. In contrast, the populations of the city's other single-member districts have all grown. The most populous, Lisa Montelione's district in North Tampa, has grown the most — more than 35 percent — and now includes 91,982 residents.
"It is challenging," Montelione says, less because of the numbers than because neighborhoods as varied as Arbor Greene and the area around Copeland Park can have starkly different concerns and needs.
As a result, some changes are in order, and for the public, the process started this week with a series of six workshops on City Council redistricting. The first was Wednesday, and the next is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the North Tampa Branch Library.
The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission is holding the workshops over the next month to seek suggestions and ideas from the public on the makeup of the council districts. Redistricting takes place every four years in Tampa and affects only the city.
Under state law and the Tampa City Charter, the Planning Commission recommends and approves a redistricting plan for the City Council's single-member districts to the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections.
In Tampa's single-member districts, Harry Cohen represents District 4 (South Tampa), Reddick is in District 5 (downtown, the port, East Tampa and part of West Tampa), Charlie Miranda represents District 6 (West Tampa and parts of South Tampa), and Montelione represents District 7 (North Tampa). The three remaining seats — held by Mike Suarez, Mary Mulhern and Yvonne Yolie Capin — are citywide.
In response to legal requirements and demographic changes, Planning Commission officials have developed five alternative redistricting plans. Each aims to:
• Create four districts that have populations as close to equal as possible.
• Create "compact and contiguous" districts using existing voting precinct boundaries as building blocks.
• Avoid changes that would hurt minority representation.
Reddick said he was not surprised to see the demographic changes in his district. When the Tampa Housing Authority demolished 483 apartments in the Central Park Village public housing complex in 2007, many of those residents moved to northern neighborhoods in city, he said.
Based on data he's seen from the Planning Commission and Supervisor of Elections' Office, Reddick said he expects the boundaries for his district to shift somewhat to the north. He hopes that they don't move so much that it jeopardizes the ability of Tampa's African-American community to elect a representative to the council.
"That's my main concern," Reddick said.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to act on the plan in January or February. It is required to complete the redistricting process by April 1, which is roughly a year before the city's next elections in spring 2015.
This redistricting process is the first for the city since the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a section of the federal Voting Rights Act in Shelby County vs. Holder. The court's decision means that the next redistricting plan does not need to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval as part of a process known as "preclearance."
But because Tampa is still designated as a minority language jurisdiction under a separate part of the Voting Rights Act, it will still be required to provide election materials in Spanish.
Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, [email protected] or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.