Vice mayor sets informational meeting to address redistricting

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 6:30pm

Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors has contacted the 40 members of the Metro Council inviting them to attend an informational meeting regarding the Metro Planning Department’s redistricting efforts that will be needed once decennial U.S. Census Bureau statistics for Davidson County are finalized.

Craig Owensby, planning department spokesman, said Rick Bernhardt, the department’s executive director, will attend the meeting to answers questions council members might have. The meeting is slated for Tuesday, March 1, at 4 p.m. at the Metro Courthouse.

Neighbors said her effort was spurred by a letter Nashville attorney George Barrett sent Jan. 12 to various Metro government entities, including the council, the Metro Legal Department and the Davidson County Election Commission.

Barrett wants the Metro Planning Department to begin redrawing its 35 Metro Council district lines — despite final census number having not arrived — to maximize voter representation accuracy. He wants the process completed promptly and feels the department can have the new district lines to the council for approval before the May 19 qualifying deadline for candidates. Barrett threatened legal action in his Jan. 12 letter.

The planning department should have the final Census numbers no later than the end of May. The election is Aug. 4.

When contacted Wednesday, Neighbors said Barrett’s letter “prompted a lot of conversation” among council members.

City officials contend the redrawing of council districts lines cannot easily be done prior to the May 19 qualifying deadline (the first day for picking up filing petition documents is Friday, Feb. 18). Barrett argues otherwise. He points to 1971, when Metro was able to mesh the collection of decennial census data with the subsequent redrawing of the district borders, without computers, no less, he added.

Neighbors said a key purpose of the meeting is to learn how quickly the final Census numbers can be analyzed and the lines redrawn.

“I don’t know planning’s capabilities or what their process is,” she said.

Barrett, a veteran attorney known for his civil rights, labor and constitutional work, said he will attend the meeting and is cautiously optimistic the redistricting process can be done promptly and efficiently.

“With leadership provided by the vice mayor and the other council members, I’m confident it can be done,” he said.

3 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 2/17/11 at 5:47

In the last redistricting many hrs went into drawing the lines
and at the last minute lots of changes were thrown to those
lines as political moves by a very small number of Council
members. For the Vice-Mayor to allow an avid paritisan
Attorney like George Barrett to run the rules and his early
threats of a Lawsuit unless it's done as he wishes is a total
mistake by Mrs. Neighbors. While I'm sure she agrees
with possible Mr. Barrett on all issues the Planning Dept
has the responsible to draw those lines in a manner they
know to be legal and fair to all. Drawing those line just
to increase any miniority or to suit one Attorney's
wishes is not fair to the voters!

By: U02Know on 2/17/11 at 10:27

Technically speaking, every district that changes its boundary lines (even by <1 inch) becomes a new and different district and yet it will retain its former district number. So, 'redistricting' could possibly mean that ALL term-limited council members could run again in their newly drawn district, because it is NOT exactly THE SAME district where they were term-limited.

Will someone with expert knowledge and authority please verify, clarify, or explain this?

By: Captain Nemo on 2/18/11 at 8:40

I don’t think that is the way the law is writte U02Know, but then there could be someone to challenge it in court.