Jacksonville, FL (March 22, 2022) – On March 22, the Jacksonville City Council voted to pass Redistricting Ordinance 2022-001. With the passage of this bill, all 14 City Council Districts and 5 At-Large Districts will change for the next 10 years. As Vice Chairman of the Special Committee on Redistricting, Council Member Danny Becton had a front-row seat to the whole process from start to finish.
The process of Redistricting began back in 2020, when residents were sent a notice inviting them to participate in the decennial census conducted by the federal government. After compiling all this information, the federal government sent this information to both state and local governments in order to begin the process of redrawing their representation lines. On August 18th, 2021, the Special Committee on Redistricting met to formally kick off the process. Out of all 14 City Council Districts, District 11 had been the biggest beneficiary of that growth, increasing by 30,378 residents, going from 60,389 to 90,767. The total population of Jacksonville increased by 131,000 new residents, from 864,273 to 995,497 or an overall 13.53% increase (average of 1.16% per year residents) and became the 12th largest city by population. Due to this growth, District 11 became the focal point to reduce its population and begin the rebalancing process for the remaining districts. District 11, by the new calculated average of 71,107 for the 14 Districts, would need to trim approximately 19,660 after the lines were redrawn to get to that new average.
The Special Committee on Redistricting discussed the procedures of the upcoming process and decided on the following process:
1) To have Bill Killingsworth, Director of the City’s Planning and Development Department, head the effort for map modification,
2) To direct the process to use “Total Population”, not “Voting Age Population”,
3) To instruct the process to keep the objective that minimizes river crossings and,
4) To not start from scratch but to use existing districts in the effort to only expand and shrink as necessary.
It was also confirmed that the criteria to be used during this process would be to create districts that are compact, contiguous, and focused on Communities of Interest. Council Members were encouraged to hold Noticed Meetings throughout the process to discuss any issues with the proposed maps and work towards a consensus for which all members of Council might agree.
In looking back to the previous redistricting process in 2011, Council Member Becton was a major contributor to that process as well, not as a Council Member, but as an interested volunteer, Baymeadows area resident, Chair of the Southeast Citizens Planning and Advisory Committee’s Growth Management Subcommittee. It was at that time the Council boundaries were quite different, and District 13 covered the Baymeadows area and ruled the Southside as an overwhelmingly favored Beaches district. As that process played out, then resident Becton along with the then current District 13 Council Member, Bill Gulliford, offered major map changes that split the Beaches from the Southside and moved to create District 11 in the Baymeadows/Deerwood area. It was from that accomplishment Council Member Becton brought a great deal of experience, historical knowledge and leadership into the 2022 process and to his new role in the redistricting process of updating and rebalancing the 14 City Council Districts and 5 At-Large Group maps.
As part of changing and rebalancing the maps to accommodate the growth and new averages for which all districts must be aligned to, Council Member Danny Becton already had a plan based on his work from 2011 to trim back District 11 and its need to reduce population. The plan that Council Member Becton offered had two parts:
1) To move Bartram Park, the area of District 11 West of I-95 to District 6 (Mandarin), and
2) To move the area North of JTB, which included UNF to District 4 and/or District 3 as needed.
These two areas, Council Member Becton acknowledged, were parts of the previous 2011 plan that were added only to accommodate the need to add population when District 11 was initially formed. It was now only logical to move these Communities of Interest back into the adjoining districts and reunite them with the rest of their community.
Council Member Becton held two Noticed Meetings to discuss these changes and other ideas presented by interested Council Members. During these meetings many options were presented, including to split Baymeadows up among multiple Council Districts and moving Deerwood to a Council representative north of JTB. This attempt to split up Baymeadows was a “deal killer” as Council Member Becton, explained.
“In years past, the area of Baymeadows beginning west at the railroad tracks along US-1 and going East, have always been the heart of District 11,” Council Member Becton acknowledged. “This area has seen its share of deterioration and decline in years past as a result of multiple representatives. It is from that history, which I contend, makes it vital to having one Council Member focused on redevelopment and improvements now and in the future,” Council Member Becton added. “The business community and economic conditions in which this area has seen great progress from a big turnaround of new development and planned roadway improvements, it is my contention that splitting it up again at this time, would be detrimental to that progress,” Council Member Becton concluded.
Council Member Becton’s argument ultimately prevailed, and he succeeded in keeping all of Baymeadows and Deerwood within the boundaries of District 11. Council Member Becton would also go on to discuss the process of Redistricting with many community groups that included: the Greater Arlington and Beached CPAC, Southeast CPAC, and the Democratic Women’s Information Network’s Zoom meeting on Redistricting to name a few. In these meetings, Council Member Becton discussed the need to keep communities together and avoid the pitfalls of “cracking”, which is the practice of spreading minority population widely across many districts in order to prevent concentration of minority voting influence in any district, and “packing”, which is the practice of concentrating minority populations into one or a few districts. This is a process that is explicitly prohibited by state law and can be analyzed by comparing the prior district boundaries with the proposed boundaries, if there is plausible suspicion of the practice being utilized. While political parties can be used as a factor in drawing lines, it cannot be the sole or major factor in making new boundaries. Council Member Becton also made sure to note in all of these group presentations that public input was important. Outlining the process, dates, and events to come, each group was provided valuable information and allowed to ask questions of the process.
With the new boundaries drawn, the City Council approved the new maps by a vote of 18-1.
As a result of this passage, the first elections that will be affected will occur in March 2023 with the election of new City Council Members. From that point forward, future School Board members will also be affected as a school board district is the combination of two city council districts which will also adhere to the map changes as approved.
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