NORTH PORT, FL - Last year, a majority of North Port voters approved requiring commissioners to live in districts. The goal is to spread out where each commissioner lives in the city. This week, current leaders are bringing up some potential problems.
City residents still get to vote for all city commissioners, but by 2016 they will be assured one lives at least close to them. "The requirement is that you have to live one year within the district boundaries that are going to be set up."
Sounds good, but Mayor Linda Yates says there are some challenges they'll need to work though. First is the costs. "Number on is going to be the fiscal challenges. There are significant impacts for setting up districts in a community."
They may need a consultant. They've heard estimates upwards of $100,000. It will not stop there. The districts in the growing city with 104 square miles would need to be modified every few years. "Another challenge is making sure you are able to draw these districts in a way that is fair, demographically equal."
For now with 58,000 residents districts would have around 12,000 in each. There are concerns about finding enough candidates from the areas. There is currently no plan in place as to what would happen if none come forward. "You may be minimizing the opportunity that you will have someone come from within that district. Even if you have one will you get two? Or how bout three?"
It also means instead of being able to run for any seat, those wanting to run will now have to wait for the one where they live to open up, every four years. The city has to do something though before a special magistrate is appointed by the state.
Yates knows the voters have spoken. "We have to enforce what the voters had passed."
Commissioners have about one year to have it all figured out. The districts would go into place in 2016.