Can Term-Limited Council Members be Drawn Out of Districts?
The redistricting commission and residents say the city charter is unclear on whether this is allowed. The decision could mean two possible city council candidates cannot run.
Council members Leslie Curran and Jeff Danner are nearing the end of their time on the St. Petersburg City Council. Both will be term-limited out of office this year.
The future of their current districts has two potential city council candidates playing the waiting game.
While they have not officially filed, prospective city council candidates Darden Rice and David McKalip have a vested interest in the outcome of the redistricting process.
Both Rice, who is president of the St. Petersburg League of Women Voters and McKalip, a local neurosurgeon and blogger, want to run for Curran's seat in District 4.
However, most the six proposed maps would move Rice and McKalip outside District 4 and into District 3, which is currently Bill Dudley's seat.
Rice spoke at Tuesday's redistricting commission public hearing and said if she had to choose a map, she'd choose map No. 2. (The maps can be seen above).
She said that map provides more diversity and, "it allows two committed civic activists to remain viable candidates," she said.
Keeping two possible candidates in their current district, Rice said, is not the primary reason why the redistricting commission should do it but is something they should consider.
At this point Rice said she is just looking for certainty because running for public office, "requires a commitment of time, money and demands on family."
McKalip accused city staff and city council members of steering the process out of the public's hands.
"You’ve been mislead by a staff that seeks to maintain a status quo," he said. "The political class is in charge, but as citizen reps it is your duty to overcome that bias. Wipe the slate clean and don’t worry about the staff. Worry about your duty as citizen representatives.
One sitting council member appointed each member of the redistricting commission.
The redistricting commission has until Feb. 15 to make its final recommendations to city council. City council then has 60 days to take action on the recommendation, which can only be overturned by a unanimous vote.
The City Charter requires a commission to be convened every 10 years following the national census to examine the population equality of each of St. Petersburg's eight council districts.
According to the charter the districts must adhere to the following criteria:
- Equal representation of 30,596 persons in each City Council district. Deviation can be ±2.0% or between 29,984 and 31,208 persons in each Council district.
- City Council districts must follow voting precinct boundaries
- Each district must be formed of contiguous territory.
- City Council districts must be compact.
- City Council districts must follow centerlines of streets, railroad lines or natural boundaries.
A sixth point, which said each current City Council member must remain in his or her current City Council district, is recommend by city staff but is not clearly stated in the charter.
During the public hearing, map No. 2 was the overwhelming favorite because it allows for three minority districts and would allow for Rice and McKalip to run in District 4.
"I like map No. 2," said Kurt Donley. "I do want to see Darden and David get into it. Besides, that it gives us opportunity to expand to three minority districts. I think we have a lot of young minority leaders coming up.
"(Map No. 2) will give more of these up and coming leaders a better chance at getting in here," Donley added.
One of the more popular maps brought up by residents was not even under consideration Tuesday. Local resident and owner of StPetePolls, Matt Florell submitted a map (Plan 99) for the commission to consider.
"I’ve been trying to follow the redistricting process as best I can," Florell said Tuesday. " ... The city districts are only for elections. They are called election district and elector districts. Meaning that they are tied to the elections. This is how it works at the state level. I don’t understand why it has to be different at the city level."
Florell said because they are term-limited out of their seat, where Curran and Danner live should have no barring on future district maps.
McKalip said he prefers Florell's map, which can also be seen above.
There are three more scheduled meetings for the redistricting commission and one more required public hearing, the date of which hasn't been set yet. The next meetings are Jan. 29 at 4 p.m., Feb. 5 at 4 pm. and Feb 12 at 4 p.m.