St. Petersburg's proposed new council districts would keep the one declared candidate off the ballot

ST. PETERSBURG — The group charged with redrawing council district boundaries currently favors a plan that would keep the only council candidate that has filed to run in the upcoming election off the ballot.

The Redistricting Commission's recent decision to recommend Plan 7 would stop David McKalip from seeking the current District 4 seat held by council member Leslie Curran, who can't run again because of term limits.

The commission will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. today at City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N, for residents to voice their opinions about the plan.

After the hearing, the commission will go into executive session to finalize its choice.

If the commission adopts Plan 7, McKalip, 47, would then reside in District 3, which is not on the ballot this year and held by council member Bill Dudley.

McKalip said he wants the redistricting process to be fair, not to make sure he gets on a ballot.

It's no coincidence that the commission's favored maps keep council members Jim Kennedy and Karl Nurse in their districts, he said. Both are up for re-election in August.

"It allows incumbents to stay in," McKalip said. "It gives them an unfair advantage and gets rid of opponents."

The City Charter requires that council districts have equal representation, be compact and formed of contiguous territories, and follow boundaries for voting precinct and natural boundaries.

Plan 7 came about after city staffers told the commission that each current council member should remain in his or her current district. That criteria is not listed in the charter.

If current council members don't live in the redrawn districts, staffers believe they would have to immediately resign from office.

McKalip, a neurosurgeon, blogger and tea party activist, is the only candidate to file paperwork for the race. A potential challenger is Darden Rice, president of the League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg. She also would be excluded if the commission approves Plan 7.

McKalip and Rice, 42, live blocks from each other.

The commission started meeting weekly last month to devise new boundaries. Since the city lost 4,000 residents in the 2010 census, every council boundary must be redrawn to include between 29,984 and 31,208 residents. Council members used to adjust the boundaries, but voters in 2011 approved a charter amendment to create a commission to make the changes.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

What's next

Feb. 15: The deadline for the Redistricting Commission to send its recommended maps to the City Council. The council could approve the commission's choice or modify the maps. Approval would require only one vote.

May 12: The City Council's deadline for finalizing the maps.

Aug. 27: St. Petersburg's primary election; four council seats and the mayor's chair are up for grabs.

St. Petersburg's proposed new council districts would keep the one declared candidate off the ballot 02/04/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 4, 2013 11:50pm]

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