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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — On Monday the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) spent a large portion of the meeting talking about possible new maps for the three Oklahoma County Districts that each commissioner represents.

The remainder of the meeting saw standard pro forma renewals of service agreements and County purchasing.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

Map One

The first map Commissioners saw was based on feedback from Commissioners and staff, according to the redistricting specialist hired by the County for this purpose.

As redistricting is based on population, District 1 is the smallest and most dense. For the purposes of new district boundaries, District 1 needed to add approximately 18,000 constituents, while District 3 needed to shed the same number. 

The proposed solution to that in the first map was to take the rural northeastern part of the County, including Jones and Luther, and put them in District 3, while adding The Village to District 1 along with some of South Oklahoma City.

That map also makes changes to the boundaries of District 2 to include Nichols Hills and a small area north of Lake Hefner including a part of Quail Creek.

District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert responded negatively to the changes for several reasons, including roads.

Under the current configuration of county districts, D1 has 205 road miles, D2 has 164, and D3 has 171. The map presented on Monday would reduce D1’s road miles to 62 miles and gives D3 313 road miles. Those new miles for the 3rd District include the D1 work barn, equipment, and crews.

District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey assured residents that they could expect the same level of service and from the same personnel as before.

Public Comment

Several civic leaders from communities around the County were on hand to offer their feedback on the proposed redistricting, as well as engaged residents in affected areas.

First was a resident of rural northeastern Oklahoma County. She has enjoyed being represented by Blumert as a resident of District 1, she said. She questioned the logic of lumping these small communities in with wealthier communities. She asked what sense it made to put Luther in the same District as Edmond.

“What does Choctaw have to do with Nichols Hills?” she asked.

Ray Poland, mayor of Jones, also shared feedback, saying that the City of Jones has had a great working relationship with District 1 leadership since he first came into office in 2009. He added that they could work with anybody, but he found the new map to be insufficient.

Poland claimed that the census was skewed, showing an increase of barely over 100 people in Jones, while during the same period of time there have been well over 200 new homes built, and most of those homes are occupied. Poland asked for the boundaries to remain the same.

Also from Jones, Carl Johnson spoke at Monday’s meeting. Johnson is superintendent of Jones Public Schools. Johnson also said that his administration and staff have had an excellent working relationship with District 1 through the years. Johnson called the redistricting “incredibly drastic,” and asked the Board to reconsider those boundaries.

Superintendent of Luther Public Schools Barry Gunn echoed the previous speakers and advocated for Luther to be kept in District 1.

Sean Cummings, a restaurateur, and political activist, also spoke at Monday’s meeting. Cummings called Commissioner Calvey “boring and predictable,” saying that he knew Calvey’s map would gerrymander The Village out of District 3.

Cummings is married to Cathy Cummings, a City Councilor for The Village, who has announced that she will seek election to the District 3 Commissioners seat in 2022.

If this version of the map is approved, Cummings would not be allowed to occupy the seat without moving to the newly delineated District 3.

The Village has been included in District 3 for 40 years, according to Cathy Cummings.

Alternative Maps

Blumert handed out to the other Commissioners a map that she and staff devised that made more equitable changes to the existing District boundaries.

In Blumert’s map, the rural northeastern part of the County, and the towns of Jones and Luther would remain in D1, The Village would remain in D3, and Blumert would pick up some parts of Oklahoma City not currently in her district.

The map was not drawn in Maptitude, the accepted redistricting software used by the specialist, but the specialist said that he would create the same map on that software so that population questions could be answered.

In addition to Blumert’s map, the Board was able to redraw the proposed map “on the fly.” 

The third map that was considered was drawn up by legislative staffer Keith Beall as the Commissioners directed, in real-time. While that map will need some “cleaning up,” it keeps most of the rural northeastern corner of the County in D1, as well as expanding it into some areas of D2 to include Nicoma Park, and possibly Choctaw. 

Meanwhile, D2 would have its boundary moved north of Lake Hefner to include a portion of Quail Creek where District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan has recently inherited a home.

Calvey’s district would remain largely unchanged, except for losing some narrow bands of population, including Nichols Hills, which would become part of District 2.

Calvey suggested that District 1 is the most racially diverse of the three districts, and argued that breaking up minority populations would dilute their voting power as “communities of common interest.”

In reality, consolidating the urban and more racially diverse into District 1 while taking over the majority of road miles there would cause a dramatic shift in the distribution of resources, and would take resources away from the voting blocs he mentioned.

Calvey requested racial demographics to be included with the maps before they vote on the preferred map.

Commissioner Response

During the meeting, in his own defense, Calvey claimed that the first map doesn’t help him personally, since he is not running for reelection to his seat, as he pursues the position of District Attorney. No Republican primary challengers have been announced yet, while two Democrats, Cathy Cummings and Jay Bridwell, have announced their campaigns for the seat.

Commissioner Blumert, reached by Free Press via text, responded with the following:

“I am glad we are allowing the public to have input on our proposed maps today and on Thursday. 

“The option presented to us today drastically changes the boundaries of county districts and could disproportionately affect the funding District 1 receives to serve its residents.” 

“The map I proposed keeps districts as even as possible in regards to road funding and ensures each district gets the same amount of attention”

The BoCC will hold a special meeting on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. to discuss and adopt a redrawn map. The three maps will be attached to the agenda for Thursday’s meeting for public viewing. When those maps are made available, Free Press will provide a link to them.

Last Updated November 16, 2021, 1:30 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor