From the Editorial Board of The Apopka Voice
After a thorough analysis of the single member district voting initiative being promoted by the South Apopka Ministerial Alliance, there are a few things we have learned. First, it's clear that well-informed people are on both sides of this issue, and people with a true heart for the good of Apopka can see this issue from both sides.
Good people can disagree. Informed people can disagree too.
Pastor Doug Bankson, a candidate for Seat#3 of the Apopka City Commission, cites a study done by Professors at Princeton and Portland State Universities that shows single member districts can run counter to electing an African-American. It also shows that at-large districts can potentially promote female candidates more effectively than single member districts. On his website, Bankson states:
"I believe now they would create more division and only secure one vote for themselves while not garnering the votes to pass important changes."
That is a thoughtful and well-informed opinion, and certainly he is right that they would only have one vote representing their district.
Mayor Joe Kilsheimer says he is not convinced the Alliance will get what they want with a single member district. He also says that the four sitting commissioners and himself are being held accountable for all of Apopka - including the southern portion of the City.
That's a reasonable position and certainly he is correct that he, and the City Commissioners are being held accountable, judging by the public comments at City Council meetings.
In early 2014, the Apopka City Charter Review Committee met to discuss three issues - term limits, adding two commissioners to the City Council, and single member districts. The committee concluded with a vote of 7-0 that single member districts would be a bad idea. Their reasons were:
In short, there are a lot of reasonable, well-researched and heartfelt theories of why a single member district would be detrimental to Apopka. However none of those well-researched, reasonable and heartfelt theories match with the reality of what is happening in South Apopka.
Pastor Hezekiah Bradford asked a series of questions to The Apopka Voice that illustrates his case.
"Drive through South Apopka. Is the housing equal to the rest of Apopka? Are the roads and infrastructure equal to the rest of Apopka? Are the parks and recreation facilities equal to the rest of Apopka? Is it equally safe in South Apopka as it is in the rest of Apopka?"
"That's the reasons we need single member districts," he concluded.
All commissioners are accountable for South Apopka as well as all of Apopka. That statement in theory is true - it just isn't working out that way. Running The City of Apopka is a full-time effort, and there are needs in all of its communities - North and South - East and West. The City has a $90 Million budget, is days away from potentially closing on a long-awaited City Center Project, and countless other issues to deal with every day.
Still, the residents of South Apopka believe they are slipping through the cracks.
But consider this … The South Apopka Ministerial Alliance states that their "want" for a single member district is not to get an African-American commissioner, but a resident of South Apopka they can hold accountable no matter their race, gender or age. That means that if there were single member districts, it is an absolute certainty they would get that person.
The Apopka Voice is in agreement with The Apopka Ministerial Alliance, as well as the two most senior commissioners (Bill Arrowsmith 39 years a commissioner and Billie Dean 21 years a commissioner) that the City Council should add the single member district to the February 17th City Council Meeting agenda and vote in favor of taking the next step and sending it to the people of Apopka to vote on at the next reasonable voting cycle.