Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

North Port Whittles Its Map Options

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

North Port Whittles Its Map Options

Article excerpt

COMMISSION: Following through on voters' wish to split city into districts

NORTH PORT -- A handful of people showed up at a North Port City Commission public hearing this week, but what they said spoke volumes.

The speakers reiterated what voters decided, twice, at the polls: Divide the 104-square-mile city into five equal districts from which commissioners must live and be elected.

The city is closer to completing that task, eliminating half of the maps proposed by consultant Scott Burton, of Meehan Burton Associates of Lake Worth, who was hired to divide North Port into districts.

During his presentation, Burton explained how he obtained data and the methodology he used to prepare six maps. He factored in projected growth. Districts should be equal in population, compact and contiguous, he said.

Dividing North Port's 2010 U.S. Census population of 57,357, he created six maps that each had five districts with a population goal of 11,471.

Because some of the language conflicted in legal documents about sitting commissioners and where they would need to live to seek office after their current terms ended, City Attorney Mark Moriarty asked commissioners to consider another map, one that he prepared.

Commissioners unanimously decided against allowing Moriarty to show his map. If they had agreed, the process possibly would have been prolonged and included going before a judge for approval rather than meeting the Dec. 31 deadline established with the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office

"I don't want to stretch it out any longer," Mayor Rhonda DiFranco said. "This is what the public wanted and this is what the public gets."

Another reason for denial was because it could have given the appearance of favoritism for sitting commissioners, which would be against the spirit of the charter amendment, Commissioner Linda Yates said.

"That was exactly why we voted for this. If three commissioners end up in one district, that's why we wanted districting, so that three commissioners didn't all live in the same district," resident Jeffrey Pace said. …

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