Currently the County Commission has seven members — four representing specific districts in the sprawling county that has 1.2 million people, and three "at-large," meaning they are voted on by the electorate in the entire county. That's quite different than similarly large county government compositions in Florida. Miami-Dade has 13 board members, all representing single-member districts. Broward has nine single-member districts; Palm Beach has seven.
Miller's motivation is twofold: He said that the county has grown so large that it's harder for four commissioners to represent roughly 300,000 constituents, and by creating a fifth single-member district it will allow commissioners to be more representative and accountable.
Driving the issue is that a reconfiguration might pave the way for a district packed with Hillsborough's burgeoning Latino population to enable a member of that growing demographic to represent on the Board of County Commissioners.
Although the issue of changing the composition of the districts and creating a more Latino flavored one has been ongoing for the past two years, it was only in May that Miller brought up his proposal. That passed the board on a 6-0 vote.
The only resistance to Miller's proposal today came from fellow Democrat Kevin Beckner, still bitter about how the Republican dominated board controlled the redrawing of the district maps back in 2011. That's when he offered up what he called "the people's map," which was soundly rejected by his (mostly) Republican colleagues.
Beckner said there are pros and cons to Miller's proposal, but warned that if the process in drawing up the new districts isn't changed, there is no guarantee that the seat would be represented by a member of the Latino community. He said his support is contingent on how successful the board is in "how we can retool the redistricting process," and suggested politicians be left out of that process.
But his line of thinking perturbed Miller, who said his only goal for the day was to schedule a public hearing for a referendum.
Beckner responded that he wanted to support the plan, but asked if Miller was supportive of changing the map drawing process? But County Attorney Chip Fletcher interjected that the board could only concern itself with the map drawing process after they approved the ordinance.
That's when Beckner asked if there shouldn't at least be a workshop before the board voted on the proposal. Commissioner Al Higginbotham quickly agreed. That workshop will now take place on Oct. 3 at 1:30 p.m.