Commission District 11 expected to lose voters

By Richard Yager….

The Miami- Dade County Commission District Map is reviewed by (l-r) Manuel A. Armada, chief of Miami-Dade Planning and Zoning; consultant Guillermo Olmedillo, and Frank Irizarry, District 11 redistricting representative.

West Kendall’s District 11 is likely to have reduced boundaries with fewer registered voters after redrawing of the Miami-Dade County Commission district boundaries by 2012.

That was the primary conclusion from county officials speaking before a sparse audience during an informational session for District 11 residents on Aug. 24 in the West Kendall Regional Library in the Hammocks.

Miami-Dade County currently is updating commission boundaries to comply with federal, state and local requirements. Miami-Dade’s 2010 population of 2,496,435 represents an 11 percent growth over its 2,253,362 total in 2000. Growth patterns have created unequal apportionment in the county’s 13 commission districts.

An analysis, designed to create close to an “ideal” division with 192,033 residents for each of the 13 districts to equalize representation, was assigned by county commissioners to the Planning and Zoning Department earlier this year. The effort results from a 2004 resolution to provide reapportionment according to U.S. census figures.

The session in the Hammocks was one of a series of 13 Community Outreach meetings scheduled between Aug. 15 and Sept. 29 to obtain citizen input for analysis by the county’s Planning and Zoning Research Section to propose precinct-byprecinct voting numbers that would equalize district representation.

A nearly two-year timeline that began in March will lead to a final draft proposal to redistrict the county by November or December of 2011.

Once a plan is approved, the county would begin redrawing voter precincts through May 2012 to allow for a primary election on Aug. 14, 2012 for commissioners in odd-numbered districts, with a general election scheduled Nov. 12, 2012.

“The major conclusion of the 2010 census tracts compared to 2000 shows Miami- Dade’s population is moving south, largely into southwestern areas,” said Guillermo Olmedillo, department consultant, who appeared with Manuel A. Armada, Research Section Chief, heading the P&Z population study.

“The shifting southern trend has resulted in unequal numbers in each district,” Olmedillo explained. “At the same time, Districts One through Four in northern Dade have decreased, indicating the need to expand borders to create more equalized voting populations throughout Miami- Dade County.”

Near equal population apportionments will restructure more than half of the current districts, creating voting territories “significantly different” than those based on the 2000 Census data, he said. Changing boundaries to provide equal representation in the 13 voting districts is mandated by the county charter as well as state and federal law, Armada and Olmedillo emphasized.

Population figures within district boundaries disclosed double-digit growth in eight districts with District 9 leading the list at 33.1 percent and District 11 following at 20.4 percent. Census figures released show District 11’s population of 213,839 is heavily dominated by Hispanics who account for 179,284 residents or 83.9 percent within current district boundaries.

Such demographics brought criticism from several residents, including Steve Redlich and Lawrence Percival, both commenting that outsized numbers of Hispanic residents throughout Miami-Dade eliminate “fair” apportionments of equalizing voting when based on racial characteristics.

Barbara Walters, a District 7 resident, who attended an earlier citizen session, declared then she would ban use of political party numbers from any analysis to prevent potential bias in restructuring district boundaries.

Observing the lack of attendance, Frank Irizarry, West Kendall bank official and prominent civic leader, sought more citizen interest and participation through website and media information. Irizarry, appointed by commission chair Joe Martinez to represent District 11 as one of 13 members of a Citizens Advisory Board, participates in outreach workshops and will provide a written report of recommendations and comments the draft plan proposal to commissioners.

Future southwest District Community Outreach meetings, including commission member and citizen representative are:
District 9, Thursday, Sept. 15, 6 p.m., South Dade Government Center, 10710 SW 211 St.; Commissioner Dennis Moss and Curtis H. Lawrence.

District 10, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m., West Dade Regional Library, 9445 Coral Way; Commissioner Javier Souto and Carlos Manrique.

District 8, Thursday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m., South Dade Regional Library, 10750 SW 211 St.; Commissioner Lynda Bell, Jose Luis Castillo.

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