By Kyle LoJacono
The Hillsborough County government recently began the task of redrawing its four districts for the next 10 years.
The county uses results from the U.S. Census to make the districts as close to equal in population as possible. Hillsborough has about 1.2 million residents, so each district will need to have 300,000 citizens.
Hillsborough has four districts, with one commissioner representing each. There are also three commissioners elected by the entire county as at-large seats.
Lutz, Odessa and the rest of northern Hillsborough west of SR 39 is located in District 2, represented by Republican Victor Crist. The commissioner said one of his goals in the redistrict process is to make it totally nonpartisan.
“Politics and political parties should have nothing to do with redistricting,” Crist said. “We owe that to every registered voter. We have a lot of other things to worry about right now, so we need to take care of this process as quickly and nonpolitically as possible.”
Crist was elected to represent District 2 last November, replacing northwest Hillsborough resident Ken Hagan as he moved to the at-large District 5 spot. Hagan is also a Republican and agreed with Crist about the task.
“As a countywide commissioner, it doesn’t affect who I represent, but it is still very important,” Hagan said. “I do know that all four commissioners who have sections of the county they represent follow the process of redistricting very closely. They have a vested interest to make sure it’s done right.”
The current District 2 has 323,264, up by 72,179 from 2010 Census figures. District 4 has 355,413 residents, an increase of 103,337 people in the last 10 years.
District 1 and 3 will need to add residents to get their population up to 300,000. District 1 has 284,518 residents, while District 3 has 246,122.
One of the difficulties with simply adding residents to District 3 is it was created under the Voting Rights Act as a minority district. Its lines were originally drawn to, in theory, increase the likelihood of a minority candidate representing those residents. It needs to maintain at least 58 percent of its population as minority to be in compliance with the act.
The federal definition of a minority includes both African-Americans and Hispanics, which make up 40 and 25 percent respectively of District 3’s population. Les Miller represents the district now and is the only minority on the Hillsborough Commission.
Miller said portions of Riverview are most likely to move from District 4 to 3. Riverview is 40 percent minority.
Miller said he would rather work with the current districts when making the new ones instead of starting from scratch.
“That would make it easier for the commission in two ways,” Miller said. “It makes it easier to redistrict and we already know a lot of the concerns of the people in our districts.”
The commission plays a big part in almost everything the Hillsborough government does, putting even more emphasis on redistricting. One of the board’s biggest duties include setting and approving the operating and capital improvements budget.
The county’s charter ordinance, which went into effect in 1985, also establishes the commission as the Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission. The individual commissioners also serve on such regional committees as the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Tampa Bay Water, Aviation Authority, Expressway Authority, Sports Authority, Port Authority, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, Children’s Board, Metropolitan Planning Organization, Economic Stimulus Task Force and the Council of Governments. In this way their authority reaches outside the county’s boundaries to affect regional planning.
When the county redistricted in 2001, the commission approved it by a narrow 4-3 vote without any public meetings. There have already been several meetings to show the public what proposed districts might look like. For more information on meetings or the new districts, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org.