Commission approves new district maps; council votes next

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:56pm

The Metro Planning Commission on Thursday afternoon approved a redistricting map to be used for the upcoming Aug. 4 election. The vote was 7-0.

The Metro Council must now approve the redrawn map, which alters many of Davidson County’s existing 35 council districts. (View the map here.)

The council will conduct a special meeting on Tuesday to vote on the map. Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors is expected to fast-track the three-vote process. The goal is to finalize the map promptly, as the May 19 qualifying deadline for Metro Council candidates looms. 

In addition, the commission approved a new Metro Board of Education map with nine districts.

The almost two-hour meeting was not without debate. For example, commissioner Tonya Jones, a Bellevue resident, expressed concern about how the map treated the west Davidson County suburb and its Districts 22 and 35.

Jones wanted essentially a north-south split, with Interstate 40 creating the divider. The commission voted down her motion to amend as such, living Bellevue with a District 22 that essentially represents “urban, downtown Bellevue” and a District 35 “wrapping” District 22 and comprising the suburb’s more rural and park-like areas.

Regarding Districts 11 and 12, commissioner Jim Gotto, who also serves as the Metro Council District 12 representative, presented a motion to have the recommended map tweaked for the Lakewood-area and Percy Priest Lake-area districts, which he felt offered less-than-ideal geographic borders. The commission sided with Gotto, who claimed he had no hidden agenda as he is being term-limited out of office.

Commissioners in general praised the planning department staff.

“Even though it has been a fast process, it has been a thorough process,” commissioner Ana Escobar said.

Veteran commissioner Stewart Clifton said he has not seen in years “a process that’s been quite so interactive” with commissioners, council and the general public.

Of note, the map includes 15 districts with Hispanic populations of 8 percent of higher (compared to six such districts for the 2007 election) and seven district with a majority or plurality of African-American residents. Davidson County is 27 percent black and 9.7 percent Latino.

In addition, District 6 no longer covers a portion of the Central Business District and, instead, is located completely east of the Cumberland River.

Based on geographic boundaries of the districts, the core of Davidson County remains the most densely populated area, with contiguous Districts 5, 6, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21 and 24 all showing significant density. However, Southeast Davidson County continues to become more densely populated as seen by the relatively geographically smallish Districts 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 32.

The redistricting map does not affect police or fire protection, nor would it change where children attend Metro’s public schools.