Cities Revolting Over Redistricting



As Sarasota County Commissioners continue to entertain redistricting this year, a growing number of elected officials in cities cast shade on the plan.

“It’s spending taxpayer money to accomplish, evidently, their own goals,” says North Port City Commissioner Jill Luke.

She wants the North Port Commission to send a letter to county commissioners asking for redistricting to be delayed until after the 2020 Census. Otherwise, the already political process will hurt trust within the public.

Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert pushed for an immediate redistricting in response to passage of Single-Member Districts, asserting if voters start electing commissioners only within their own commission district, the county needs to make sure the districts are nearly the same population.

But critics say that’s a way to get around the single-member district and allow commissioners to choose their own constituencies in advance of the 2020 elections. Redistricting will take place again in 2021 regardless, when county officials get official census numbers instead of state estimates.

The Venice City Council this week already voted to send a letter to commissioners demanding they stop the early redistricting plan now. 

Mayor John Holic said it’s a waste of resources to hire a consultant to estimate county population when the Census Bureau will provide a more accurate count in less than two years. But he also stressed the redistricting fiasco was already disrupting local politics.

“Very few people can file for the next election because they don’t know the district where they are going to be living,” he says. “This is a great way to keep people out of the county process and make sure someone is selected who they want to fill the position.”

Not every Venice Council member supported sending a letter. Councilman Bob Daniels worries the move will fray already strained relations between city ad county government. “I don’t know how this will be viewed,” he says. “It could be just another thing we are asking for, and the list we have already is pretty long.”

Luke, though, applauded Venice for taking action and hopes other cities like her own do the same. The process looks transparently like a snub of the will of voters, she says. In fact, county commissioners might save their own political skin if they “heed our warning,” Luke says.

“If you look at single-member districts, 60 percent voted for it,” she says. “And the support for this was all over the county. They may be hurting themselves if they do something like this.”

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