Most of the Greensboro city manager's "IFYI" packets go out around 5 p.m. on Friday. Whether intentional or not, the timing guarantees minimal media exposure considering that people tend to tune out the news on Saturday and by the time they re-engage on Monday the impact has softened.
That makes the timing of a press release about a redistricting plan recommended by District 4 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw curious indeed. The e-mail hit my inbox at 7:01 p.m. And it's a dramatic redrawing of the map.
Here's the current map:
And here's the Rakestraw plan:
The council will consider Rakestraw's plan on Tuesday.
Political districts are required to be drawn with a variance of no more than 10 percent. After the new population count of Census 2010, Greensboro's five districts have a variance of 9.2 percent, with the greatest difference between districts 4 and 5. That means the council doesn't need to make any changes.
I am hoping to speak with Rakestraw to find out what purpose she is attempting to accomplish with her plan. It does offer one improvement: It reduces the variance between the district with the largest population (1) and the one with the smallest (4) to 7 percent, compared to the current variance of 9.2 percent.
But at a cost:
The Rakestraw plan moves 11 precincts, affecting a total of 32,037 registered voters. Those are all people who will have to be educated on which district candidates they can vote for before the Oct. 11 municipal primary, and who may show up at the polls and find an unfamiliar slate of candidates on the ballot, creating confusion and ultimately compromising their ability to choose elected officials to represent their interests.
The plan creates the most dramatic changes in District 1, a majority black district in southeast Greensboro. It flips Precinct G48, which covers the Spring Garden Street corridor from roughly Chapman Street to Holden Road, from District 4 to District 1. The precinct would be separated from the rest of District 1 by the railroad to the north of Lee Street and would be contiguous by only about a fifth of a city block.
The plan would also move the Greensboro Coliseum from District 1 to District 4, and Precinct G31, which includes the Garden Homes and Guilford Hills neighborhoods from District 3 to District 4.
The plan would flip Ole Asheboro, Nocho Park and NC A&T University from District 2 to District 1, in exchange for three more easterly precincts covering the Dudley Heights, Eastside Park, Willow Oaks, Heath Community and Hope Valley neighborhoods, which would be moved from District 1 to District 2.
District 1 would also absorb Precinct G56 from District 5. The precinct includes Four Seasons Town Centre and the Rolling Roads neighborhood.
The proposed reshuffle maintains black voting majorities in both districts 1 and 2, one of the goals of the redistricting process.
It will be interesting to hear the argument on Tuesday for such a dramatic overhaul — moving 11 precincts and 32,037 voters — all to reduce the variance to 7.0 percent, an improvement of 2.2 points.
There's another option, explored in this previous post, which would reduce the variance to 5.3 percent, an improvement of 3.9 points. It would require only one precinct to be moved. If Precinct FR3, covering part of the Cardinal, were moved from District 5 to District 4, it would bring both districts within a percentage point of ideal population and affect only 2,137 voters.
Here's hoping we can have a forthright and transparent discussion about the relative merits of any proposed changes instead of five council members secretly conferring and then rush-approving a new map before the public even has a chance to weigh in.