Susan Bucher causes scene at redistricting hearing

The Florida Senate Committee on Reapportionment and the House Redistricting Committee conducted one of 26 statewide public hearings Tuesday in Boca Raton to seek public comment for the redistricting process. Most of the presentations were uneventful – until one elected official created a scene.

State Sen. Don Gaetz, chairman of the Committee on Reapportionment, announced that, with nearly 100 people registered to speak, each person would be allowed only two minutes to present their ideas. Most of the speakers were respectful, as was the audience. But when Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher ran out of time, she refused to stop speaking, asserting, “I am your elections partner; I will continue.” Bucher’s main complaint was that the timeline for the process would not allow her to properly prepare for the 2012 elections. When Gaetz reminded her that there were many others waiting to speak, at least a half-dozen people stood and offered to yield their time. Gaetz allowed her to continue, after which she received a standing ovation from a large group in the audience.

Common criticisms included a lack of proposed plans and maps for the community to review, the perceived unrealistic timeline for completing the redistricting process and the lack of objective standards to measure legal requirements once the maps were drawn.

Ken Lassiter of  the Coalition of Boynton West Residents Association suggested more compact districts, adding that his membership shared “four representatives, two senators and two congressmen.”

Requests by speakers included keeping coastal, agricultural and majority-minority districts intact. “These communities need and deserve fair representation which reflects their unique needs, which can only be preserved if redistricting is fair,” said John R. Smith, chairman of BIZPAC and a financial services business owner.

After the 2000 Census, Palm Beach County gained a third Senate seat. Todd Bonlarron, representing the Palm Beach County Commission, and Ed Chase, executive director of the Northern Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, both requested that the county retain that third seat.

As part of the public input process, people can try their hand at drawing legislative boundaries with the state’s software program. Citizens can visit the House website and the Senate website to create and submit their own suggested maps.

Tuesday’s hearing lasted three hours, and all who were registered were called to speak. A number of regional senators and representatives were on hand to observe.

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