by James Coleman —
One Shelby County Commissioner could be squeezed out of a seat after a redistricting map was selected during a meeting of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners Monday (Nov. 1).
The possible “squeeze” would result from, based on the latest Census population numbers, placing two commissioners who are up for reelection in the same district, dividing Germantown and putting Collierville High in District 12. There are 13 districts.
As it stands now, the affected commissioners are Brandon Morrison and Michael Whaley, both of whom are up for re-election next year, in the same district, which is District 13.
However, one more commission step is needed before the new map is official. The map needs one more round of approval, likely to happen during a special called meeting before Monday (Nov. 8). That is when candidates for elected office can start picking up petitions for next year’s county general election.
A resolution drawing new district lines for Shelby County Schools board members also got the nod on a 10-0 vote. The vote was held without debate.
“It shouldn’t be about me. It should be about what’s best for the county … So, I think we’ve got to push ourselves to look at it that way, and that’s what I’ve tried to do personally,” said Whaley, who initially dismissed the choice.
“Even if it’s not the most ideal map for me personally, I understand and appreciate this map and how it looks. It’s hard to objectively disagree with it.”
Morrison didn’t take a similar philosophical tack. Instead, she tried to poke holes in the commission’s pick throughout the resolution’s debate.
She called the map “partisan,” saying it “completely changed her district.” Several Memphis precincts would end up being represented by a Germantown commissioner, too.
“I fear that the nonpartisan voice, which I feel like I have within the city, it will be lost if this is the vote,” Morrison lamented.
She also criticized the media, saying local outlets had been remiss for not running op-eds (guest editorials) on the subject.
“The media actually went past deadline covering this because the work is not done. We extended the time for participation by this body in the committee.”
Commissioner Van Turner Jr. pushed back. “I get it. I do it too. If I’m in court and the facts are not on my side … I talk about everybody. It was their fault. They did it. The (Census) numbers are what they are and the demographics have shifted east.”
Turner chaired the ad hoc committee on redistricting.
Several commissioners also took issue with the process. The commission is required to approve a map before amendments can be considered.
Commissioner Mark Billingsley (District 4) called for a motion to send the map back to committee for further study.
“I understand that time is of the essence, but if we don’t have answers to all of our questions before us, we are really rushing it tonight,” said Billingsley, whose district represents Germantown.
Billingsley’s motion was seconded by Commissioner David Bradford (District 2), but failed to sway enough members.
Bradford then pitched an amendment that would keep Collierville High in Collierville’s district. It also would have kept Farmington Elementary, one of Germantown’s most popular voting locations, in place.
Earlier, Billingsley complained about the changes in the new map. It also failed.
Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. then proposed to suspend the rules. However, this failed to gain the two-thirds majority, or nine votes, needed.
If the resolution passes, the new boundaries will apply to commissioners elected or re-elected in the county’s general election August 4. Party primaries for the general election are May 3. Winners of the general election assume office on Sept. 1.