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Residents make pitch for reconfiguring Hillsborough County Commission districts

The Hillsborough County Commission heard from dozens of residents Thursday weighing in on the once-a-decade drawing of boundary lines for four commission seats.

Most of the speakers championed minority representation or suggested which County Commission district best suited their neighborhood. Meanwhile, the number of redistricting proposals continues to grow.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner said he would introduce a map created by an alliance of Hispanic civic leaders, making it the eighth option for the commission to consider.

The group shared its ideas for redrawing district lines, including a heavy Hispanic concentration in District 1.

The district would include South Tampa, west Hillsborough all the way to Citrus Park, and parts of North Tampa. District 1 would lose all of the South Shore area.

Beckner said some of the other options concerned him and seemed to not go far enough in ensuring that minorities have a strong voice. "I have deep concerns that part of our minority representation voice is potentially being watered down and has been watered down," he said.

After the meeting, Lydia Medrano said she was encouraged by Beckner's decision to support her group's proposal.

"I feel like we are being heard," she said. "The growth in the Hispanic population is being recognized."

Several members of the African-American community also spoke out Thursday, saying they wanted to ensure there was no reduction in the percentage of black residents in District 3.

Linda Washington, president of the Progress Village Civic Council, said she supported the proposals that kept her predominantly African-American neighborhood in District 3. Some of the proposed maps would divide the community between District 3 and District 1.

"It's very important that we stay whole," she said.

District 1, redrawn to include communities such as Ruskin and Apollo Beach after the 2000 census, was the object of much criticism.

Several speakers said those neighborhoods should be restored to District 4, which includes most of southeast Hills­borough.

One of the latest proposals also adds Sun City Center to District 1.

"When you start talking about south county and moving them up into the Tampa area, we have no common interest," resident Betty James said. "We are a rural area."

Though many people argued for their neighborhoods to be kept whole, Temple Terrace leaders said they like being split between two districts.

"Retaining our current District 2 and 3 representation is extremely important to us," City Manager Kim Leinbach said.

Commissioners will discuss the matter and possibly approve new boundaries on June 20. The U.S. Justice Department must also sign off on the plan.

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

Residents make pitch for reconfiguring Hillsborough County Commission districts 06/09/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 9, 2011 11:47pm]
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