New alignment shifts Odessa and Keystone to a sprawling district that reaches Ruskin
By Kyle LoJacono
Odessa and Keystone residents will have new representation once the newly unveiled Hillsborough County districts take effect in 2011.
The Hillsborough Commission voted 6-1 in favor of the new alignment, with only Democrat Kevin Beckner voting against it. Les Miller, the only other Democrat on the board, sided with the five Republicans.
Lutz, Odessa and Keystone had been within county District 2, but commissioners had to split the northwest Hillsborough communities because of growth in the area. Odessa/Keystone were moved into District 1, which stretches into south Tampa and the South Shore area.
U.S. Census data show the former District 2 had to lose about 23,000 residents to approach a total population of about 300,000. Hillsborough has about 1.2 million people and each district must have nearly the same amount according to the county’s charter.
The new district map was drawn by commissioner Mark Sharpe. His District 7 does not represent any one area and is instead voted for by all county citizens.
“It wasn’t easy to draw up the districts,” Sharpe said. “We supported the Fair District Amendments and had to make them equal in population. In the end I think we did the best we could.”
One of the arguments against the old districts was a portion of southern Hillsborough that normally votes heavily Republican was within District 1, which also represents south and east Tampa. That area retained its snake-like portion of South Shore.
Sandra Murman is the District 1 commissioner. Sharpe said residents in South Shore “like the representation” they have received from Murman and wanted to stay under her jurisdiction.
District 2 Commissioner Victor Crist said he would have liked Odessa and Keystone to remain with Lutz, but understood the population numbers would not allow it.
“Culturally Lutz and Odessa/Keystone are very similar,” Crist said. “It will be a change for those people I think, but it couldn’t be helped.”
Patrick Manteiga, a Democrat and the publisher of the weekly newspaper La Gaceta, was at the meeting when the districts were announced and was less than pleased with the results.
“That’s the most Republican vote I’ve ever seen,” Manteiga said. “I think the Republican Party did a good job of communicating with its members.”
Manteiga took special exception to District 1 and its extension to the south. Murman did not comment on the new map except to say she approved it with five of the other commissioners.
Beckner voted against the new districts because of the odd shape of District 1 and because he said, “It does not address the concerns of the Hispanic population within the county.”
Beckner, whose District 6 is also at-large like Sharpe’s, created his own map, which he said drew support from Hispanic groups in the area.
Beckner called his version “The People’s Map,” which would have united the southern portion of District 1 with the rest of South Shore. It would have also included much of west Tampa, which has a high percentage of Hispanics, in Murman’s district. Those moves would have made District 1 nearly 36 percent Hispanic instead of the 32 percent from the new districts.
Miller, who represents District 3 including central Tampa, said he voted for the new district because it did not reduce the “black voting power in my district.” He added that he knew neither his nor Beckner’s map had a chance of passing.
District 3 was set up as a minority district by the Voting Rights Act and must maintain at least 58 percent minority population to be in compliance.
The new districts will remain in place for 10 years when the next Census numbers reveal changes in population. To see the new district lines, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/redistricting/data.cfm and click on map H.