A vote Tuesday by the city’s redistricting commission will move forward Saint Petersburg’s surprisingly contentious reapportionment process, while likely leaving the only declared candidate for District 4 without a district to run for in the 2013 municipal elections.
Dr. David McKalip, the neurosurgeon and Tea Party activist who recently filed to run for District 4, currently lives in that district but after the commission’s choice of “Plan 7” at its last meeting, he would now be in District 3. Councilwoman Leslie Curran, who is term-limited from running again, currently holds the District 4 seat. District 3 is represented by Councilman Bill Dudley, who is still in the middle of his term.
From the outset of this process, the redistricting commission has been guided by a five-point criteria when drawing a new map of City Council districts. These points include equal population variance, compactness and that each district must be formed of contiguous territory.
Controversy has arisen because the commission has gone along with the city staff’s argument that there is a sixth, implied criteria: that each current City Council member must remain in his or her current City Council district. Unlike the first five criteria, this one is not found in the City Charter.
The real-world implications of adopting this criteria is the gross, needless redrawing of the Council districts to accommodate Curran and Jeff Danner, both of whom will not be on Council after this year. That’s right, City Council districts which will stand for ten years are being drawn to accommodate City Council members who have only a few months left in office.
If Curran were really smart, she’d ask to be thrown in the brier patch. By this I mean, she’d let the Commission know she would not mind if they drew her out of her district now. Were they to do that, yes, it’s most likely Curran would have to immediately step down from Council. But she also would then be free from term-limits and able to run for District 3 (Dudley’s seat) in 2015.
Were Curran to simultaneously step down from Council and file for Dudley’s seat, she would become the instant front-runner in District 3. In fact, I doubt another serious would emerge to challenge Curran.
The trouble is, Curran is just too damn proud to admit now that she’s doesn’t intend to run for Mayor against Bill Foster. That’s too bad. Because if Curran would think long-term about her political career, she could, after a brief vacation away from Council in 2014-15, extend her influence for another decade.
All she has to do is ask to be thrown into this brier patch.