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Hillsborough commissioners approve election boundaries for next decade

TAMPA — Voters in some northwestern Hillsborough, Brandon and South Shore neighborhoods are most affected by new election boundaries approved Monday by the Hillsborough County Commission.

All these neighborhoods are moving into new county election zones under a plan created every 10 years to ensure that each district defined within the county limits represents roughly the same number of people.

After two public hearings to vet 10 proposals, commissioners approved one called Map G. A majority of the Republican-dominated board said it was the best option, when compared with others that split neighborhoods and seemed to try to satisfy one group — Hispanic voters — to the detriment of others.

"To try to address one issue you end up dividing Carrollwood, dividing Brandon, and having an impact on Temple Terrace," Commissioner Mark Sharpe said in criticism of two maps heavily favored by Hispanic leaders.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner was the only dissenting vote, saying that Map G didn't incorporate enough citizen feedback.

Commissioner Les Miller also indicated the map wasn't his favorite, but knew that another option he championed didn't have enough support.

"I'm not going to fight for it because I'll be fighting a losing battle," Miller said.

Beckner and Miller are the only Democrats on the board, which consists of seven commissioners elected in partisan races.

Three of the seats are countywide. Four are elected from within defined districts to which the board approved the changes.

Map G puts all of western Hillsborough into District 1, including the Westchase and Keystone areas, which were in District 2.

The southernmost coastal districts, like the areas of Valroy, Gulf City and Sun City, will move from District 1 to District 4, which includes all of southeastern Hillsborough and Plant City.

Parts of Brandon and Valrico north of State Road 60 are now in District 2, which includes most of northern Hillsborough.

District 3, which comprises central, east and north Tampa, remains a heavily African-American district in hopes of satisfying U.S. Department of Justice requirements of a minority representation district.

Under Map G, the Hispanic population in District 1 is 32 percent. Several members of the Hispanic community, bonded under an alliance called the Hispanic Redistricting Initiative, urged the commission to support a map they supplied that would have pushed District 1's Hispanic concentration to 35.7 percent.

Beckner helped the group get its map introduced, but faced criticism for entitling it "The People's Map" instead of using a single letter like the other options.

At Monday's meeting, he defended the decision by saying it was the only one of the options that was generated by the public — not by the county.

"There is no intentional political bias in the design of the map," he said.

But when Sharpe insisted the map shouldn't have been named differently than the others, members of the audience applauded.

Sharon Calvert of Lutz told commissioners she was angry when she heard about it.

"Aren't all of the maps the people's maps?" she asked.

Much of the two-hour comment period consisted of people voicing support or opposition to the map supported by the Hispanic Redistricting Initiative.

Temple Terrace resident Eddie Adams Jr. said he was disappointed the commissioners focused on Map G despite hearing little public support for the option. He said that seemed to indicate their minds were made up before the meeting.

"They were allowing us to go through the process having predetermined what the outcome was going to be," he said.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

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More online

The Hillsborough County Commission ended its redistricting process Monday night by approving Map G, one of 10 options. To view all of the proposed maps, visit hillsboroughcounty.org/redistricting.

Hillsborough commissioners approve election boundaries for next decade 06/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 12:11am]
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