Jacksonville, FL (August 18, 2021) – Last year you may remember being sent notices and receiving phone calls telling you to fill out your Census form. Filling out the Census, you may have been told, helps secure federal dollars and other assistance for the community. It also plays a deciding role in who represents you, at the federal level and all the way down to your local government. On August 18th, the process began for the City of Jacksonville as the Special Committee on Redistricting convened its first meeting to begin the conversation of redrawing your city council and school board districts. The center of the discussion is where the lines will be drawn for District 11, which will play a very critical role in how all 14 City Council District are drawn. Your District Council Member Danny Becton is at the center of this discussion, as Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on Re-Districting.
Prior to the 2010 Census, District 11 on the Southside, did not exist in its current form. District 11 was north of the St. Johns River within Duval County and the area that is currently District 11 was divided among District’s 4, 5, 6 & 13. In 2010, after the census was completed, there was a noticeable population jump, so it warranted the shifting of a District from north of the river to the south. Council Member Becton was a part of that process a decade ago as a citizen advocate and now is playing a major role in redrawing the district lines today as an elected official. Ten years later, now in 2020, District 11 has experienced again rapid growth and is now the most populated District in Jacksonville. Jacksonville, in general, has grown in the last decade, becoming the 12th largest city population wise with an increase of over 131,000 new residents, and a population that has increased from 864,273 to 995,497 residents. An increase of 13.53% or an average of 1.16% per year. With the influx of people moving to Florida from other states, this number is only going to continue to go up.
District 11 has been the biggest beneficiary of that growth, increasing by 30,378 residents, going from 60,389 to 90,767. Because of its current population and size, District 11 has become the focal point to reduce its population and begin the rebalancing process for the remaining districts. District 11 by the new calculated average of 71,107 for the 14 Districts, must trim around 19,660 to get to that new average.
“I have had a front row seat and witnessed this tremendous growth within our city, in District 11 over the past ten years,” Council Member Becton acknowledged. “So many new neighborhoods and multifamily developments have contributed to the influx of new residents and it is still growing at a rapid rate for the foreseeable future,” Council Member Becton stated. “As a result of having to trim so many residents from the District 11 footprint, for which I will propose, this should begin the process of rebalancing and shifting to the adjacent Districts, which will then cause a domino effect for others as a result,” Council Member Becton added.
The current Special Committee on Re-Districting initially meet on August 18th, 2021, being Chaired by Council Member Aaron Bowman. The procedures of the upcoming process were discussed including decisions that decide the following: 1) to have Bill Killingsworth, Director of the City’s Planning and Development Department, head the effort for map modification, 2) to direct the process to use “Total Population”, not Voting Age Population, 3) to instruct the process to keep the objective that minimizes river crossings and 4) to not start from scratch but to use existing districts in the effort to only expand and shrink, as necessary. It was also confirmed that the criteria to be used during this process would be to create districts that are Compact, Contiguous and focus on Communities of Interest.
The outcome of the initial meeting also encouraged Council Members to have separate Notice Meetings to discuss regional changes around the county. Council Member Becton as a result, called a Special Noticed Meeting on September 7th with fellow Council Members from adjoining districts. This meeting was scheduled to hopefully hash out a path forward that would help guide and decide how the impacts to adjoining neighborhoods and districts throughout the southside might be agreed upon. Council Member Becton opened that meeting with the following remarks:
“The reason that I called this meeting is to discuss specifically the possible affects that District’s 6, 5 and 4 might have from changes that need to occur in the downsizing required within District 11. These areas are more than likely to be affected as District 11 needs to reduce its population between 16,000 to almost 21,000 residents. District 11 is at the most south-east part of our county bordered on two sides by St. Johns County. Therefore, any changes that must take place have to come from either the west or the north due to that fact. If from the west, this would affect District 6, if from the north, the likely changes would affect District 4 or 3. Therefore, at the core of my discussion today is the options that I see affecting these areas in trimming back District 11 and how those changes would cause a domino effect for any others. District 11 has three major transportation corridors within and outlining the district and that is JTB to the North and US1 and I-95 to the West. In 2011 during that re-districting process, these major roadways were identified as logical boundaries and it was determined as a result of the lack of population at that time within, District 11 would have to go outside those areas. Today, those areas are what I would offer first to be trimmed back and returned to the adjacent Districts”
In the discussions that took place during this meeting, first, map alternatives were all proposed with no river crossings. These maps created a super compressed version of all Council Districts south of the river. As a result, these compact districts seem to create great discord among Council members who found many of their personal district interests and objectives violated and unacceptable.
As one point of contention, it was proposed to divide up the Baymeadows Road area into separate districts. Council Member Becton as a response, left it clear that under no certain terms would he support any subdivision of that area due to its need for a single representative. This was a need, he explained, to promote its continued economic and social initiatives to reverse years of decline. It was also noted that the Baymeadows area was the heart-beat of that area as a major corridor within District 11 that should stay intact. Especially, since the division at this time was not needed. In seeing several options, one to move the area north-west of I-95 and Baymeadows Road and then east of Southside Blvd and north of Baymeadows Road including Deerwood to other Districts, Council Member Becton objected.
The meeting, as it certainly demonstrated some spirited debate, however, did draw one major conclusion: it was obvious that not crossing the river was not an option. As a result, Council Members did agree to meet again after future work on alternatives would continue to take place. As a result, Council Member Becton did initiate and called for another Special Noticed Meeting on September 22nd. At this meeting, Council Member Becton opened by stating the following:
“My objective for this meeting is to discuss map modifications that I have worked with Director Killingsworth team on since our last meeting that ONLY affects the South-East corner of the Southside, which includes District 11, 6 and 5. These changes are what I would like to focus on at this meeting to discuss with my adjoining colleagues, their thoughts and opinions as to find commonality and agreement.
In addition to these suggestions, what will be shown here today are map modifications that Director Killingsworth has integrated from other meetings and other conversations. Meetings that included Council Members from north of the river discussing North-West changes and also Council Members south of the river discussing issues of the North-East part of the Southside.”
At this meeting, Director Killingsworth, presented a new map proposal. This proposal did present a river crossing for District 2, which exists today, resulting in only minor adjustments for Districts 1, 3, 4 and 13. As for Districts 5, 6 and 11, Council Member Becton’s ideas and suggestions of only moving parts of Bartram Park, west of I-95 to District 6, allowed Council Member Boylan of District 6 to meet his objectives of keeping what he considered, “The Heart of Mandarin”, intact. As shown, the changes received very favorable consensus from fellow Council Members. As a result, all Council Members in attendance, voted unanimously to support the proposed map.
As a follow up, it was on September 27th, the full committee of the Special Committee on Re-Districting met to discuss the progress made on the district boundaries and to begin the discussion of the next map to be redrawn, that of the At-Large District boundaries. The committee expects to finalize boundaries and begin the work on the Ordinance by late November and will then submit to the council a Bill to begin the legislation process. The Rules Committee will be the next step in that process, being required to host a minimum of 3 public meetings, all to take place out into the communities, before any formal recommendation is provided to the full Council for adoption. The final vote on the new maps must take place within 8 months of the census data being provided to the city which will look to have the process completed by April of 2022.
Public Comments may be provided by sending an email to: [email protected]