Drawing political boundaries in secret, getting them approved by voters on the ballot, well, that’s nifty. ?Might get your districts thrown into litigation. ?Looks like whoever was in the room at the time thought about this, and may have thrown a measure into the new Cuyahoga County charter as a shield to defeat any such litigation – immediate redistricting as soon as the new council takes their seats.
Redistricting. Immediately following each decennial Federal census commencing with the census of 2010, the Council shall appoint five electors of the County, not more than three of whom shall be members of the same political party and none of whom shall hold public office or be an officer of a political party, who shall constitute a Council Districting Commission. The Commission shall, not later than one hundred twenty days following its appointment, prepare and certify to the Board of Elections of Cuyahoga County a detailed apportionment of the Council districts in accordance with the principles provided for in this section.
So the council appoints the reapportionment board. ?If there is a majority of Democrats on the first council (likely), three out of the 5 board seats will be Democrats. ?Who those 3 Democrats end up being is probably the biggest looming political battle of Issue 6’s early childhood.
The charter lays out pretty standard guidelines for redistricting (which would likely defeat any attempt to enjoin the charter based on the drawing of district boundaries), but then throws this gigantic loophole into the mix.
The Council may establish additional criteria for the Council Districting Commission to use for the purpose of drawing district boundaries…
Let the games begin!!! ?Who can tell what “additional criteria” may be in the offing? ?You can imagine a few scenarios, but even without that loophole, the table is set for games to be gamed.
Let’s say the first county council has some members who are allied with the new county executive, and some who aren’t. ?Very likely. ?The executive’s first term will start with one council map, and end with a new one. ?It is in the executive’s interest to work the reapportionment in his/her favor, through council’s appointed board, to gerrymander out any council members he/she does not like, by combining districts, moving unsympathetic voters into a council member’s district, etc. ?If the executive has enough allies on the council, he/she can get the reapportionment board to include people who will do with the new map whatever the executive wants.
So what does this mean for candidates for council in 2010? ?It means you already have an interest in sucking up to the majority that will sit on council, and by extension, whoever becomes the first county executive. ?More urgently, though, it also means you are running for a seat that will not be the same as the seat you seek for re-election. ?Oh, and here’s the kicker.
At the general election in 2010, the members of the Council shall be elected, one member from each of the eleven districts, six of such members for four-year terms and five of such members for two-year terms.
Get that? ?Five of the 11 councilors will be running for re-election not in four years, but in 2012, in newly drawn districts, at which point all the terms will become 4 years. That means those 5 seats will be the least secure elected offices in all of Cuyahoga County, and the most subject to these kinds of games. ?According to the Board of Elections recent petition ruling, those 2-year seats are the even numbered districts (phew!! ?not my District 7), and they are as follows.
District 2: The cities of Brook Park, Lakewood, and city of Cleveland Wards 18 and 19
District 4: The cities of Brooklyn, Parma, Parma Heights, Seven Hills, and the village of Linndale
District 6: The cities of Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Highland Heights, Independence, Mayfield Heights, Pepper Pike, and Solon, and villages of Bentleyville, Brooklyn Heights, Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga Heights, Gates Mills, Glenwillow, Hunting Valley, Mayfield, Moreland Hills, Newburgh Heights, Oakwood, Valley View, and Walton Hills, and Chagrin Falls Township.
District 8: The city of Cleveland Wards 2, 5, and 6, and the cities of Garfield Heights and Maple Heights
District 10: The cities of Cleveland Wards 10 and 11, East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights, and the village of Bratenahl
Three of these 2-year term seats are Bill Mason country, and you can bet your Granny’s apple pie that Mason is already gaming those. ?The other two, Districts 8 & 10, are in Marcia Fudge’s 11th Congressional district sphere of influence. ?More tellingly, look at the concentration of black voters in the District 8 & 10 2-year seats – 5 east side wards of Cleveland, East Cleveland, Cleveland Hts., Garfield and Maple Hts. ?If there is going to be a challenge to this charter on equal protection grounds, that may be where the challenge can find fertile ground. ?On first glance, it appears that a much larger proportion of the county’s black voters are subject to 2-year seats under the county charter than the proportion of white voters subject to 2-year seats.
Bottom line – Issue 6 did not end the games, it merely started a new one. ?And that new game has already begun. ?And the first ones in the line of fire are anyone who runs for an even-numbered county council district.