By Adam Pagnucco.
MoCo is about to embark on one of its most important tasks of the decade: redrawing county council districts. The county’s charter mandates redistricting every ten years in line with the release of new U.S. Census data. The charter also states that the council must pick a redistricting commission to recommend new boundary lines (although the council retains the final say). The current redistricting will be particularly intense given the recent passage of Question C, which expanded the number of districts from five to seven.
MoCo’s current county council districts.
More than 100 people applied to be on the 11-member redistricting commission and 32 were scheduled for interviews. The interviewed applicants include:
1. Two former elected officials, including one who used to be a council member and has run for two different offices in the last five years.
2. Five other former candidates for office, including one who has run for office seven times since 2009. Three of these former candidates have run at least once since 2018.
3. Two political consultants, one of whom has worked for MoCo politicians, including sitting council members.
4. Two spouses of sitting municipal elected officials. Both of these officials unsuccessfully ran for higher office before being elected to their current positions. One of the spouses also ran for office, including for council in 2017-18.
5. A sibling of a 2018 council candidate who has managed multiple local political campaigns.
These are not bad people. To the contrary, most – if not all – of them have done good things and can serve the county well in other roles. But the redistricting commission is a critical body that will play a key role in designing council districts for the next decade. The importance of this exercise to county residents cannot be overstated. The public interest should be the sole determinant of redistricting. Given the fact that the public is watching how this plays out:
It would be wise to avoid the appearance of a candidate designing his or her own district for a future run.
It would be wise to avoid the appearance of a political operative designing a district for a client.
It would be wise to avoid the appearance of a commission member designing a district for a family member.
Redistricting is an official and supremely important act of county government but it’s also a very sensitive one. Many people are jaded about “gerrymandering” and the county just had an all-out ballot war over the appropriate number of council districts. I can’t count how many times I have seen the word “machine” used to describe the county’s politics this year. In this climate, it won’t take much to get people to believe the worst about redistricting, and given the recent popularity of charter amendments, who knows how far such sentiment could go.
There are plenty of qualified applicants who could do a good job and don’t have any of the above issues. Come on now, council members! Please consider them when choosing who serves on the redistricting commission.