Florida’s Redistricting Committee heard concerns of Collier County residents Wednesday morning at a crowded public meeting where there was standing room only.
The state lawmakers -- who are charged with redrawing Florida’s political boundaries -- listened to constituents for nearly three hours, but what they heard were basically three requests.
The No.1 issue on the minds of Southwest Florida voters seemed to be compact districts. Scott Duvall of Bonita Springs said the city suffers from a lack of political cohesion.
“One of our main issues is the bifurcation of the city of Bonita Springs – so we just ask for you to use wisdom in coming up with fair and logical boundaries,” he said.
A number of people, including Lydia Dalton with the League of Women Voters, were also concerned with the timeline for creating those new districts.
“It’s unfair to have the lines drawn after the date that candidates have to declare candidacy,” she said.
And, there was also concern about drawing compact districts that also provide for minority representation.
“Collier County is one of the only five counties in Florida whose entire electoral process is monitored by the Department of Justice due to past discrimination against Hispanics,” said Luis Bernal, who lives in North Naples.
Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who is chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said as far compact districts go the “listening tours” are providing valuable insight.
“Before today, I would not have understood there was any tension with regard to Bonita Springs,” said Weatherford. “Now, I understand what the citizens of Bonita Springs want -- they want to be together.”
But, creating districts that are compact, not drawn to favor one political party and assure minority representation at the state and federal level can be problematic, said senior committee member Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
“There are some minority groups saying we need more opportunities. On the other hand, we have the fair districts language which says districts ought to be compact,” he said. “I think there will be tension and it will difficult to resolve and make everybody happy.”
As for the time frame for having political boundary maps in place that satisfy provisions of state and federal law, Weatherford said the committee is doing the best it can.
“It’s very important to point out that if we had the entire state of Florida drawn already, people would have said this whole process is rigged, you’ve already made up your mind this is a waste of time,” he said.
Weatherford and Gaetz both said they are committed to having maps drawn and approved as quickly as possible. The redistricting committee meets the week of Sept. 19 in Tallahassee. The longer the redistricting process takes, the more difficult it will be for potential challengers to campaign against incumbents.
Thursday, 01 September 2011 10:04
Redistricting Committee Visits Southwest FloridaWritten by Valerie Alker