OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners determined new borders for each of the three County districts in a special meeting Thursday.
Many concerned residents, including elected officials, current and former, attended the meeting to voice concerns and to advocate for the map that best suited their represented groups.
Every ten years, counties must adjust district boundaries based on population changes. This year, in Oklahoma County, District 3 needed to shed 18,000 constituents and District 1 needed to add the same number.
For the first time in recent memory, today’s map selection gerrymandered a candidate for office out of the District she is running to represent. Cathy Cummings, Democratic hopeful for District 3, attended the meeting and made her case against the maps, along with several other county residents.
The Board ultimately chose a map offered by District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan.
Marty Peercy reports Local government
Free Press reported on Monday that the Board had three maps to consider before voting for one on Thursday. However, as we reported Tuesday evening, the maps attached to the agenda for Thursday’s meeting did not precisely match the maps discussed in Monday’s meeting.
On Monday one map was initially presented that expanded District 3’s area while diminishing District 1’s area. In that map, presented by legislative map specialist Keith Beall, District 1 was to become an almost entirely urban District, leaving most suburban and rural parts of the county under the oversight of Districts 2 and 3.
District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert established that she was against that change as it robbed D1 of road miles, including the work barn, equipment, and road crews. That would come with a distinct reduction in budget resources for District 1. Blumert said that it would prevent her district from doing projects at schools, such as parking lots and dirt moving, which rely on road budget and District 1 crews for completion.
District 3 Commissioner Calvey said that the map was designed to keep whole “communities of interest.” Calvey went on to say that not doing so would dilute the voting power of minority residents of the county.
During Monday’s meeting, Blumert presented her own map that would keep her current District boundaries largely the same, but would pick up parts of north and south OKC currently in Districts 3 and 2, in order to meet the population requirement.
After discussing her map, Blumert and District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan asked Beall to manipulate a new map, and the two engaged in what this reporter called “horse trading” for an extensive time.
At Thursday’s meeting, some called the seeming “negotiation” a waste of their time and the public’s.
For Thursday’s meeting, each Commissioner proffered their own map designs.
Here are the three maps that were on the agenda Thursday:
Submitted by District 1 Commissioner Carrie BlumertCommissioner-Blumert-Proposed-Map
Submitted by District 2 Commissioner Brian MaughanCommissioner-Maughan-Proposed-Map
Submitted by District 3 Commissioner Kevin CalveyCommissioner-Calvey-Proposed-Map
Calvey’s map was, indeed, the initial map presented by Beall on Monday, laying bare any question of who was responsible for that map design.
Blumert’s map, the only one that didn’t remove the city of The Village from District 3, Included much of the current boundaries for District 1.
Maughan’s map included the entirety of Nichols Hills and Quail Creek, and added The Village to District 1. From the horseshoe, Maughan declined Blumert’s offer to negotiate that map.
In attendance for Thursday’s meeting were everyday residents of the county, as well as some elected officials who wanted to advocate for and against certain maps.
The first speaker was W.B. Wilson, a resident of the rural town of Luther in northeastern Oklahoma County, and former superintendent of Luther Public Schools. Mr. Wilson trotted out the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He said the current boundaries work fine and they should be left as they are.
Wilson was followed by Cathy Cummings.
Cummings is a current City Council member and former mayor of The Village. As stated above, Cummings has been campaigning for the District 3 Commissioner’s seat for the past six months. Two of the maps for consideration would remove her home and The Village from that District
Cummings politely asked the Board to table the vote until more feedback could be gathered. She also took special exception to Maughan’s map, which took up the entirety of Quail Creek, one of the parts of the District where Cummings believes she has electoral support. Cummings asserted that Calvey and Maughan presented maps to intentionally keep her out of the running for County Commissioner.
Cummings also pointed out that Maughan’s map adds Quail Creek because Maughan inherited a house in the area.
At Monday’s meeting, Maughan stated for the record that he inherited a home in Quail Creek and would like to live there, which would require stretching the District 2 border north of Lake Hefner.
As the deadline for redistricting isn’t until the end of November, there is time for the Commissioners to revisit and gather more feedback, Cummings explained.
At no point during Cummings’s comments did Commissioner Calvey look at her.
Jennifer Edmunson, a resident of rural northeast Oklahoma County, asked the Board to vote no on all three maps, saying these maps were for the Board members interests, not the public’s. She added that if Monday’s meeting was not a negotiation, then the board members wasted their time and the time of those who took time away from work to attend.
Edmunson went on to criticize a poll that Calvey had circulated to voters in that part of the county, that asked weighted questions including who the voters would rather be represented by. Calvey claimed this poll to be “scientific.”
Edmunson referred to the survey as “gross,” and “anything but scientific.”
Derwin Romani, a Black local mental health advocate who frequently makes comments at County meetings, accused Blumert of “White Savior Complex” while praising Calvey for formulating a map that consolidates most people of color in the county in one district. Romani claimed that as the maps are configured right now, a black person couldn’t win the District 1 seat, previously held by Willa Johnson, who approved the current maps ten years ago.
Former State Senator Anastasia Pittman also addressed the Board. PIttman is running against Blumert for the District 1 Commissioner’s seat.
Pittman said that Calvey’s map looks good on the surface, but with the removal of so many road miles it would remove financial resources from District 1. After reviewing the three maps with clergy from Northeast Oklahoma City they determined that Maughan’s map was the preferred iteration.
Another speaker, Christopher Johnston, implored the Commissioners to take a little more time to consider the maps and to get more people at the table.
Two representatives of the town of Luther added their voices to the mix.
Terry Arps, Mayor of Luther, said that he didn’t think the purpose of the maps was gerrymandering and that he thought any of the Commissioners could do a good job representing his community.
Luther Town Council member Joshua Rowton said that he doesn’t believe in identity politics and that we should all be suspicious of the government. He then endorsed Calvey’s map.
Discussion from the Commissioners followed public comments.
Calvey thanked those who offered comments and again explained that his map was intended to keep “communities of interest” together. “Let’s face it, there’s three white people up here,” Calvey said.
Calvey then moved for approval of Maughan’s map.
Blumert said that none of the maps are perfect, and that hers keeps the boundaries largely the same as they have been for the last ten years.
Blumert also declared that the other two Commissioners were not going to vote for her map.
After an attempt to get Maughan to negotiate in order to allow The Village to remain in District 3, a request that Maughan answered simply with a “no,” Blumert seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously to approve Maughan’s map.
Members of the crowd were outraged. Sean Cummings, spouse of Cathy, and a political activist, cursed at the Board, and singled out Blumert for having approved it.
Free Press spoke to Cathy Cummings after the meeting.
Cummings said that she is not yet giving up on running for the District 3 seat, in spite of Thursday’s vote, which she said was a deliberate attempt to get her to not run.
“I know they did, because not only did they take The Village and give it to District 1, they took the entire area of Quail Creek and the entire area around Lake Hefner. That was not discussed Monday.
“And magically [Maughan] has everything and that’s where my Democratic wards are. And not only in The Village and around the Lake, but Nichols Hills. And I just think what happened today was a sham.”
The Board adjourned without further discussion
The BoCC will meet again on December 6 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Updated November 18, 2021, 6:35 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor