Thursday, March 24, 2011

Subtraction by addition: Metro Planning shares their first recommendations for redistricting

Metro Planning Department's first proposal ("Alternative A") for council redistricting based on changes in the 2010 U.S. Census was put online yesterday. It caused a buzz in the social media. Planning's suggestions for District 19, which includes Salemtown, are substantial and significant for a district that had been considered within the allowable range for an "ideal population".

Here is a superimposed map of 19 and the new alternative, District 13:

Current Dist 19 is outlined in purple. Proposed Dist 13 is outlined in red.

Some preliminary observations:
  • Alternative A proposes that the district CM Erica Gilmore currently represents would expand east and west to encompass all of the Downtown commercial/mixed-use core and Vanderbilt University, one of Nashville's largest enterprises
  • District 13 would also contract north and south, encompassing fewer working-class, lower income/transitional residential areas than District 19. Neighborhoods lost to this district would include Jones-Buena Vista, Osage, and Fisk-Meharry in North Nashville and Edgehill in South Nashville
  • Neighborhoods added to the district would include part of upper-middle class Hillsboro-West End and the entire Urban Residents Association (Downtown). District 13 may be more 1st wave suburban than urban District 19?
  • The racial/ethnic consequences of this neighborhood shifts are substantial: District 19 is 72% African American, 22% White, but it would flip to 66% White, 24% African American as District 13. That shift may be more representative of the city's demographics, but it also may present a problem for African Americans who rely on traditional power networks in North Nashville.  I do not yet have the demographics on class and income, but contracting the north-south axis would seem to amount to an "upward" shift. 
  • It seems that District 13 would be even more commercial and tourist-oriented than it is now with only part of Downtown and Midtown balanced by residential neighborhoods. Adding Vandy and more of the West End corridor to a complete Downtown core with Midtown and the Gulch would seem to be a district less attuned to protecting neighborhood quality of life against the arbitrary and capricious patterns of unbalanced growth.

Any impressions from those of you who also live in District 19 or who would live in a new District 13?


  1. I'd like to know if there is a precedent to this situation. How has this "redistricting" been handled historically with regards to a census? On one level, I say people running for election to the council entered races under a 'grand fathered' situation. Then George Barrett sued, claiming the redistricting needs to be done. That seems rightful as well. But practically, I'd be tempted to say wait until after the election. Then again, was the practical approach to have done this redistricting sooner?
    I'd appreciate any education on this matter.
    Of course, I want the whole thing to work in a way that minimizes the influence of Latte Liberals like Megan Barry, Ronnie Stein (I won't give him the 'e') and Mayor Dean, but on this matter, I'm sure there is either a pragmatic answer/approach to how this situation is handled.
    How have other cities handled it?
    If you can provide some perspective or answers, please do.

  2. Boyer,

    The 1971 census is the example held by George Barrett when the MPC had to redraw the districts shortly before the elections were to happen.

    The reason he would sue is largely because for the next four years you would see dramatic differences in terms of equal representation.

    For instance, the 31st district has nearly 30,000 people, whereas the 7th district had less than 14,000.

    As for diminishing the power of the latte-liberals that you and Mike Byrd dislike, well, those are at-large races, so none of this has much of any effect on them.

  3. Thank you for the information.

    BTW, I don't dislike the Latte Liberals I mentioned, I just dislike what they are doing.

    Mrs. Barry and Mr. Steine are both at the upper end of the Bell(e) Curve when it comes to income, education and station in life. They of course have a "vision" for Nashville, and I think parts of their collective vision are great.

    But their vision is exclusionary.

    I enourage them both to open up their minds and appreciation of the real world in Nashville.

    A great start:

    Megan and Ronnie, you should both go pay your electric bills at the downtown NES office in person. Go towards the very end of the month.

    You'll see what you're missing.