New Plan-J materializes

Last night Historic City News learned that a last minute proposal has been added to the mix of potential redistricting maps being considered by the St. Johns County Commission this morning.

After receiving the unanimous support of the St. Johns County School Board in a recommendation made last week, revised Plan-C received the support, by resolution, of the St. Johns County Republican Party.

However, not everyone was “on board”.

Minority voters cried “foul”; saying the supported plan will unfairly diminish the power of the black community, if adopted. In reality, the “diminished power”, referred to by the plan’s detractors, does not hinder any voter’s right or ability to vote.

What it does means is that, if adopted, revised Plan-C will provide minority voters less opportunity to control the outcome of School Board elections by “block voting”.

Commissioners for the City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County, run for office countywide, even though they are attributed to specific “seats” or “districts”. Likewise, all constitutional officers, Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Clerk of Court, Tax Collector and Supervisor of Elections, run for office countywide.

All registered voters, regardless of voting district, get to cast a ballot in the General Election. For non-partisan contests, such as the St. Augustine, Hastings and St. Augustine Beach City Commission, all eligible voters cast a ballot in the Primary Election as well.

The exception is the School Board; where candidates run for election only within their voting district — even though, if elected, they vote on all matters of business that come before the Board.

Last night, City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline introduced, then withdrew, a request for a redistricting resolution that favored keeping the incorporated boundaries of the City of St. Augustine intact.

After lengthy discussion, guided by St. Johns County Attorney Patrick F. McCormack, and comments from eight members of the public, the decision by the commission was not to decide; and, to assist them in being able to decide later on, the decision was made to axe all proposed maps for plans the commission could rule out.

A census of the Board revealed, in varying orders of support, the top three proposals for redistricting would include: revised Plan-C, the plan already favored by the St. Johns County School Board, revised Plan-E, the plan supported by minority voters and those who say School Board members do not represent their concerns, and Plan-J, the over-night plan revealed today.

Plans are for representatives from County Staff to build a matrix indicating values, pro and con, for each of the three proposals based on responses made by members of the County Commission today — then to meet with School Board Staff.

School Board member Beverly Slough spoke at today’s meeting and expressed concern that the late entry, Plan-J, had not been adequately vetted, and expressed support for any selected plan that both the School Board and County Commission could agree — so as not to create two sets of boundaries for voting districts.

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