Rakestraw plan radically alters council district lines

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.


Daddysiphone said...

Are these people not capable of reading the paper, researching candidates, or figuring things out for themselves? The way you worded the article it sounds like these people will need to be told whom to vote for. That they are incapable of educating themselves on the candidates they are showing up to the poll to vote for. Were you inferring that a majority of these voters rubber stamp their ballot for the same person each election? Has the need for "educating" voters been a concern any other time a district has been changed? I have not been able to find any solid reason for opposing this change other than something all informed voters should be doing anyway. Thanks.

Jordan Green said...

Voter education is always an uphill battle. Many people don't even realize that city council elections occur on different years than presidential elections. Many don't know which district they live in to start with or that they have five members of the council who represent them.

Democracy functions better with higher participation. Elected representatives can do a much better job of carrying out the will of the people when the people are engaged in the process.

My question is, why redistrict and move 30,000 voters around when you don't have to? And if you're going to redistrict, why not shift one precinct from District 5 to District 4, which would affect about 2,000 voters and significantly reduce the disparity between the largest and smallest district?

Gerry Alfano said...

It was interesting that Ms. Rakestraw. who usually has a lot to say, had nothing to say about her redistricting plan. She made no response to the numerous speakers who criticized her plan. I wonder if she even listened to what they had to say. It seems to be a very self serving plan and an example of why redistricting should not be done by politicians.