New City Council district boundaries could dramatically alter upcoming St. Pete elections

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Although neither of them has officially filed to run for the District 4 seat on the Saint Petersburg City Council, both David McKalip and Darden Rice are expected to seek to succeed term-limited Leslie Curran. A McKalip vs. Rice face-off, featuring a self-financing Tea Party activist running against a highly respected civic leader promises to be one of most-watched local political contests of 2013.

That is, if they even get to run in 2013.

Two of the five proposed redistricting maps currently under consideration by a committee charged with redrawing the City Council’s district boundaries draw both McKalip and Rice into the District 3 seat currently occupied by Bill Dudley, who still has over two-and-a-half years left in office.

St. Petersburg’s city charter requires the city to convene a Redistricting Commission every 10 years following the national census.

The charter requires each district to be similar in population (between 29,984 and 31,208 each). The charter also requires districts to be compact, contiguous and follow boundaries defined by streets, railroad lines or other natural boundaries (such as waterways). 

Currently, only District 3 meets the target population, requiring boundaries to be adjusted throughout the city.

In two of the five proposed plans, the Allendale neighborhood which McKalip and Rice call home is drawn into District 3.

redistricting - city of stpete plan1

Three of the five plans keep McKalip and Rice in District 4.

redistricting - city of stpete plan2 

These plans, of course, are only the first step in the redistricting process, but it’s disappointing to think about the possibility that McKalip and Rice won’t square off this Fall.

Another, more technical issue beguiling some of the Redistricting Commission members is the need or rationale for keeping current City Council members in their district. For example, why is District 4 being redrawn to keep Curran in the district other than for the sake of doing so. Perhaps it would be more logical to redraw the districts without that consideration (while letting Council members serve out the remaining term in office.)

City attorney Mark Winn stated that although it is not explicitly stated in the city charter, drawing the lines to keep the Council members in their districts is an inherent criterion. Council members must live in the district they represent and because of this requirement, if they are redistricted out of their current district, they are basically put out of office.

These and other questions must be answered before February 15 when the Redistricting Commission is required to submit its report to City Council. 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.