Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County residents criticize legislative redistricting process

LARGO — Critics of Florida lawmakers' approach to redistricting seats lambasted them at a testy hearing Tuesday in Pinellas County.

About 150 people attended the meeting, letting loose boos and catcalls during one of a series of hearings on new district lines for Florida.

Lawmakers aren't showing any maps beyond informal public submissions, prompting critics to call the meetings worthless. Lawmakers also continue to challenge new constitutional amendments approved by voters in 2010 to reduce political favoritism in drawing district lines.

Democrats and members of progressive groups continued to pillory the work of the panel in unusually harsh tones, even compared to past meetings, critics and lawmakers said.

"There's absolutely no reason why you should sue your constituents. What's wrong with you?" scolded Mary Lou Ambrose, a Democrat from Belleair Bluffs.

Several times, House Speaker-designee Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, cut off speakers after saying they went over their three-minute limit or were straying off topic, such as speaking about equal rights for women.

Ernest Bach, chairman of the Independent Party of Florida, had a minor standoff when he refused to step away from the microphone after he was cut off. Three security guards prodded him to leave the microphone. Muttering, he walked away after the sound was cut off.

"There you go. Have a good day," Weatherford said.

As critics lashed out at Weatherford and future Senate President Don Gaetz for opposing the 2010 amendments, Sen. Jack Latvala interrupted to object to the jabs in his own district.

"This was borderline rude, I'm sorry," Latvala, R-Clearwater, said afterward.

The three-hour hearing wasn't all tension-filled.

Nigel Watson of the American Civil Liberties Union took the microphone to support the amendments, supported by the Fair Districts group.

"I'm for foreplay — fair play," Watson said to laughter.

Lawmakers found support among Republicans and tea party activists.

"I appreciate you taking the time to do it, and not sending it off to the courts," said Pete Franco of South Pasadena.

Weatherford and Gaetz defended the hearing process, saying it was transparent and off to an earlier start than past years. By law, legislators can't vote on new districts until 2012. The lawmakers will soon finish 26 hearings held across the state.

But critics warn the expected legal challenge will stall new lines if they wait until next year, scaring challengers — to the benefit of incumbents.

"Dragging this process well into 2012 is discouraging candidates," said Rich Piper, a Democrat from near Largo who is a retired professor of government with the University of Tampa.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/DeCampTim

Pinellas County residents criticize legislative redistricting process 08/30/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 12:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Worker critically injured after falling off truck in Clearwater

    Accidents

    A Zephyrhills man was critically injured early Thursday morning when he fell off the back of a road construction vehicle.

  2. Electricity poles and lines lay toppled on the road after Hurricane Maria hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, September 20, 2017. The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis. [Associated Press]
  3. Trigaux: For Class of 2016, college debt loads favor Florida graduates

    Banking

    Florida college graduates saddled with student debt: Take heart. The average debt Class of 2016 Florida grads must bear is less than students in most states.

    University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for last fall's commencement ceremony. A new survey finds their average student debt upon graduating was $22,276. Statewide, 2016 Florida grads ranked a relatively unencumbered 45th among states, averaging $24,461 in student debt. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  4. Romano: One person, one vote is not really accurate when it comes to Florida

    Politics

    Imagine this:

    Your mail-in ballot for the St. Petersburg mayoral election has just arrived. According to the fine print, if you live on the west side of the city, your ballot will count as one vote. Meanwhile, a ballot in St. Pete's northeast section counts for three votes.

    Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter Sept. 22 at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. (SCOTT KEELER   |   Times)
  5. St. Petersburg will hold first budget hearing tonight

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine City's new property tax rate looks exactly like its current rate. For the second year in a row, Mayor Rick Kriseman does not plan to ask City Council for a tax hike or a tax cut.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman talks about the state of the city on Tuesday, two days after Hiurricane Irma passed through the state. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]