Redistricting settlement means fewer women, less Black representation in city council — at least for now

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville City Council will soon have fewer women and less Black representation. That will be the short-term repercussions of the new boundary maps the council signed off on Tuesday night.

It will still need a federal judge’s approval, but it’s an agreement reached with civil rights that have sued the city over the current redistricting maps.

Less minority representation and fewer women may not sound like something civil rights groups would want to see, but we are told it could lead the way to a more diverse council in the future.

In a 15-to-3 vote Tuesday night, the city council took steps to end a year of fighting. It involves the lawsuit by civil rights groups over boundary maps for city council and school board districts. Those groups have said earlier maps approved by the city crammed minorities into specific districts, particularly in Northwest Jacksonville. The groups and the city decided on a new map which the civil rights group say could lead to more minority representation.

The Northside Coalition is one of the groups that filed suit.

“I think it took them a long time to come to their senses. This particular city council has been hard-nosed, hard-boiled and hardheaded. Unfortunately, they had to cost us the taxpayer a lot of money before they recognized that what they did was wrong,” said Northside Coalition leader Ben Frazier.

The lawsuit forced changes in the boundary line in this current city election. And the results are going to show fewer minorities on the council for now.

Where currently there are seven Black or African American members on the council, that number will drop to six and possibly as low as four depending on the outcome of the current city election.

Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson who voted against the agreement at Tuesday night’s city council meeting pointed out something else this agreement will do for now. In July we will see the number of female council members drop from six to three and possibly as low as one.

But Frazier said despite how it looks on the surface we need to look at the representation differently.

“I understand that people want to look at raw numbers,” he said. “And I’m telling you that raw numbers don’t tell the whole story. What we’re looking at is people who have to have a certain political consciousness and sensitivity to that constituents. That is what this story is about.”

News4JAX spoke to others involved in the lawsuit and they said the new map will actually open up the council to more Democrats. And they believe that will have an impact on the representation of minority communities.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.