JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In an effort to meet a deadline imposed by a federal judge, Jacksonville City Council members spent the day Friday debating six map options for updating boundaries for the city’s school board and council districts.
The judge told the council to come up with another layout after local groups sued because the council used race to plot new district lines.
The council managed to narrow the six maps down to one Friday but struggled at first to get a super majority of at least 13 members to vote in favor of the map.
Just after 3:30 p.m., Councilwoman Randy DeFoor changed her vote, and the council passed the map, which splits Riverside and Avondale into separate districts. Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson was the lone vote against it.
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Friday’s efforts followed more fireworks on Thursday as a special Jacksonville City Council committee met to try and hash out the details of the new city council and school board districts.
The committee started the day Thursday with three new maps, all variations of a map dubbed “Maroon.” It chose one of those maps and made some tweaks before presenting it to the full city council for a vote on Friday -- just four days before the federal judge’s deadline of Nov. 8.
By 10 a.m. Friday, that map had morphed into the six options being considered by the council that were later narrowed to one.
The districts are being redrawn because the federal judge agreed with the lawsuit against the city that said council members used race to determine previously passed boundaries, which is illegal.
The committee on Thursday addressed the concerns of splitting apart districts in the Riverside/Avondale area, but in doing so it created new problems, like the dividing of other districts like Springfield in half. There was a large group of people who were upset that a portion of the Northside San Mateo neighborhood was also split, something residents there and even city two council candidates who are on the ballot say is all being done for political reasons.
“It’s wrong because they’re redistricting me out of the district I lived in my whole life. I worked so hard they don’t want someone in there that will work for the people. They are worried about special interests and they are worried about themselves,” said City Council candidate Charles Barr.
But more people were upset that the time limits to speak out were shorted. They only had 45 seconds each when one minute was allowed Wednesday.
On Thursday evening, the public got another chance to comment on the city’s plan during a town hall.
The work is far from over as the full council now takes up the recommendations and members could come up with even more ideas. Council president Terrance Freeman talked with News4JAX about what could end up happening.
“You saw so many members of the public from the Avondale community come out, San Mateo, had many representatives out as well today and sharing their cases. And as well, they had their council member here representing them fighting for it,” Freeman said. “And as they were speaking, and as we were listening to the voices of the people, you saw some of those adjustments made. I’m hoping tonight to gain the same type of exposure to ideas and concepts and continuous debate as we continue to look to make this map the best map that it can be with this short timeline that the lawsuit has given us.”