Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New commission map, sans politics?

Now here's something you don't see every day, given our penchant for politics where politics do not belong:

A bunch of politicians are at least talking about taking politics out of a local redistricting process — a development that could be remarkable in its lack of, well, politics.

Right now, three of the seven Hillsborough County commissioners are elected by voters countywide. The other four win their seats via voters who live in specifically mapped-out districts.

Commissioners are now looking at a proposal that could turn one of those countywide seats into another district seat. Why?

As the argument goes, Hillsborough County has grown to be home to more than 1.2 million citizens. With the proposed change, a district commissioner would be expected to pay attention to the concerns of 245,845 of them instead of 307,307.

With apologies to commissioners, think: waiter with fewer tables.

Also interesting: This proposal could make it easier for Hispanic voters to elect a Hispanic representative — similar to the District 3 seat held by Commissioner Les Miller, which was carved out to help ensure an African-American representative on the board.

Hispanics make up 25 percent of the population and are the fastest growing ethnic group, but currently there is no Hispanic commissioner. Though it should be noted for the record that people with Spanish and Cuban — and also Italian — roots are an integral part of how this place grew up and have long been part of its politics and judiciary.

There is, of course, potential political fallout to such change, real or suspected. Some worry savvy operatives could actually use it to strengthen Republican dominance on the board. Consider, for instance, that it would mean losing the only countywide seat elected in a presidential year, when Democrats tend to show up.

But in making this redistricting decision, commissioners should be able to consider it on the basis of fairness and need without worrying about political influence — right?

"The biggest act of political theater I have ever seen," Commissioner Kevin Beckner says of the redistricting process in 2011, down to bigwig party members sitting in the front row.

Given that, picture this:

Commissioners recently voted 5-1 to consider depoliticizing things by handing over the redistricting process — as in, who ultimately gets to draw those new maps —to the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission. These planners have been handling Tampa City Council districts for decades.

So, we're talking politicians at least talking about handing off power for the greater good. (Unless those powerful political types get their ears first, anyway.)

On Nov. 6, citizens get to make their thoughts on a new single-member district to "reflect the diversity of the citizenry in this county" known at a public hearing. It should be a good airing of an interesting idea in all its nuance, of a change that could shape how their county gets governed into the future. The proposal needs five votes from commissioners to get it to a referendum next year.

And that push by politicians to take politics out of the process would be a good start.

New commission map, sans politics? 10/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 11:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Chris Archer, 25,000 Cubs fans and Tampa Bay's painful truth

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The biggest ovation inside Tropicana Field on Tuesday night was not for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was returning for the first time since managing the Rays.

    "W" flags fly in the stands after the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Rays Tuesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. A rendering of the Bucs' indoor practice facility.
  3. Poorly assembled 'Lego Ninjago Movie' waters down Lego movie franchise


    Well, that didn't take long.

    After only three movies, the Lego franchise is already a shadow of its original self, less irreverent and go-for-broke bricky. The watering down of an ingenious formula comes with The Lego Ninjago Movie, the sort we expected all along from plastic construction toys.

    A scene from "The Lego Ninjago Movie." (Warner Bros.)
  4. Irma slows curbside trash service in Pasco


    Hurricane Irma brought a hiccup to twice-weekly curbside trash service in Pasco County.

Pasco officials are asking for patience about the slow pace of residential trash service from private haulers. In some areas, trash hasn't been collected since Friday, Sept. 8, because of the volume of waste left after Hurricane Irma.
  5. Clemson reunion for Bucs' Adam Humphries, Vikings' Mackensie Alexander


    Bucs receiver Adam Humphries will have a familiar face lining up against him Sunday when he's in the slot and the Vikings have Mackensie Alexander guarding him as their nickel defensive back.

    Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries (10) makes a reception before being tackled by Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Cooper (31) Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]