||Commissioner Edmonson provided a brief overview of the Redistricting Subcommittee’s task to present to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) recommendations on the process for, and the actual redistricting of County Commission seats. She explained how the Subcommittee was created, briefed on its role, given a timeline; assigned its responsibilities to the BCC; and presented with various legal opinions regarding redistricting. Commissioner Edmonson informed the Board of the Subcommittee’s consent to present sound recommendations to the BCC by the targeted January 2012 deadline. She addressed concerns that the Subcommittee’s recommendations would not be a true reflection of the full Board’s position on redistricting, reiterating the Subcommittee’s role to bring, to this Board, recommendations on matters related to commission district boundaries. In addition, Commissioner Edmonson noted the Subcommittee would also present the recommendations of a consultant who would prepare an initial evaluation for redrawing commission district boundaries. She described the process used by the Subcommittee for the selection of the consultant and noted she sent copies of the Subcommittee’s meeting minutes to Board members for review. Commissioner Edmonson emphasized the urgent need for the Subcommittee to go into the community and obtain feedback from constituents and to develop its proposed drawings. She asked for patience from Board members and invited them to ask any questions they might have of the Subcommittee.
Chairman Martinez stated that of the current Commission members, only Commissioners Barreiro, Moss, Souto, and he were active County commissioners during the last redistricting process. He stressed the importance of this function, and noted the tone varied from conscientious to contentious. Chairman Martinez pointed out that the people tended to become involved late in the process after realizing there could be changes to their district representative. He asked that all Commission members became involved in this process and cautioned those requesting “at large” districts to remember that the expanding one district reduced another along with its minority votes and representation.
In response to Commissioner Edmonson’s question of whether there were any changes concerning the County Attorney’s opinion of responsiveness documents provided to the Subcommittee, regarding any of the consultants, Assistant County Attorney Oren Rosenthal advised that additional documents were located after the County Attorney’s Office rendered its initial responsiveness opinion. However, he advised that he did not think the additional documents changed the opinion; but did change the underlying causes.
Commissioner Diaz expressed concern with the perception of documents missing and noted such situations raised red flags for him. He asked staff to commit to dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" from this point forward.
Responding to Commissioner Diaz’ comment on his understanding that the consultant had already been selected, Commissioner Edmonson confirmed he understood correctly. She explained the reason for bringing this issue before the Board was to keep the entire redistricting process transparent.
Commissioner Heyman pointed out that the vote for the consultant was unanimous among Subcommittee members and gave a brief overview of her initial reservations regarding the non-responsive and non-compliance opinions. She explained that this redistricting process was a very serious matter that involved the voters’ rights and Commission representation. Commissioner Heyman asked the Planning and Zoning Department Director to ensure that the County’s redistricting process was conducted in accordance with federal guidelines.
Discussion ensued among Board members and staff regarding the consultant contract cost and the scope of work contained within the contract. Assistant County Attorney Rosenthal advised that the steering committee agreed to include more flexibility in the contract to allow the number of districts to be increased, if needed. He noted the scope of services in the original contract called for four (4) maps, and the additional services would be to add additional maps if needed. Mr. Rosenthal stated it would be the Board’s prerogative to request additional redistricting plans. To address the Board’s previous concern with being able to request additional redistricting plans, he noted this contract was created to include a pre-negotiated price that allowed the Board to request additional plans at the pre-negotiated price.
In response to Commissioner Diaz’ concern regarding missing documents, Ms. Wendi Norris, General Services Administration (GSA) Director, explained that additional proposals, aside from Mr. Olmedillo’s proposal, were submitted. She further noted that additional information that was related to Mr. Olmedillo’s proposal was also submitted, but was found at a later date. Ms. Norris advised that the entire process was clean and above board. Responding to Commissioner Monestime’s concern with whether the original contract price had changed, she stated the original price was unchanged; however, there would be a separate price for the additional plans.
Chairman Martinez presented a large aerial map and described the task requested of the Planning & Zoning Department, the Consultant, and the Subcommittee to analyze the County and develop plans with 13, 11, 9, and perhaps 15 districts. He noted those plans were covered within the scope of the original contract; however, any adjustment, creating a new plan, would cost and additional $52,000. Chairman Martinez described how Biscayne Bay caused any expansion of districts to be to the west, into predominantly Hispanic areas. He explained this would cause minority districts, particularly African American, to be lost. Chairman Martinez informed Board members that the lower the number of districts, the greater the number of residents each district would need. He urged his colleagues to provide the Subcommittee with their recommended number of districts for consideration. Chairman Martinez advised that the deadline for the maps to be drawn and approved was January 2012, which was an election year.
Commissioner Edmonson reminded Commission members that recommendations for numbers of districts, other than those referenced by Chairman Martinez, would cost $52,000 each.
Commissioner Suarez spoke in support of 13 districts and noted there should be as much representation at the local level as possible. He expressed opposition to the Board factoring in the residence of the incumbent when deciding where the districts should go; rather base that decision on the criteria in the constitutional law.
Commissioner Bell expressed her support for 13 districts and asked what the County’s population net gain thus far.
Mr. LaFerrier noted the population had increased by approximately 12 percent, to approximately 195,000 from approximately 175,000, since the last redistricting project.
Chairman Martinez pointed out that those districts with populations below 175,000 would need considerable expansion just to reach the 175,000; then would need an additional 20,000 people for a total of 195,000. He noted the expansion would be driven westward into a less dense area of predominately single-family homes, making it necessary to acquire more acreage and miles to amass the numbers needed.
Commissioner Bell expresses her support of 13 districts. She agreed that the focus should be on the population, the population shift, and the direction of the shift, and accommodate those variables with the 13 districts.
Commissioner Monestime stated he also supported keeping the number of districts at 13. He noted he was open to the concept of increasing that number to 15 to strengthen the possibility of other minority groups being represented on the County Commission.
Commissioner Barreiro expressed support for continuing with 13 districts. He also noted he would keep an open mind to the issue of having quadrant (at-large) or overlapping seats. He stated quadrant seats could be a mechanism to ensure minority, African American, seats were maintained on the County Commission.
Commissioner Heyman expressed her support for the number of districts remaining at 13.
Chairman Martinez provided closing remarks.