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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Commentary

Bringing county commissioners closer to their constituents

Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published:

County and municipal governments provide the most basic services to their constituents. This is the most local form of government, and it should be close to the people it services. For this reason, Hillsborough County commissioners should be closer to the people they serve. Because of the growth in population in Hillsborough County and limited population served by its cities, the vast majority of people in the county have become further separated from their county commissioners.

The 1980 census indicated that the population of Hillsborough was 646,960. The current makeup of the county commission was established in 1983, three years after the census. The 2010 census indicates that our county’s population has grown to 1,229,226. This indicates that our county has grown by 52.6 percent in 30 years.

In 1980, the total population of the county’s three cities was 299,738. Today, Tampa’s population is 340,882, Plant City has 33,411 citizens and Temple Terrace has 20,918. This indicates that 32 percent of the county’s total population lives within one of the three city limits, while 68 percent of the county’s population lives in unincorporated areas.

In 1983, a single-member district county commissioner represented 161,740 citizens. Today, a single-member district commissioner represents about 307,300. If the makeup of the single-member districts were changed from four single districts to five single-member districts, each commissioner would represent 245,845 citizens. This reduction brings each single-member district commissioner that much closer to their constituency.

Hillsborough County is the only county in Florida with a population of more than 1 million people that still has at-large districts.

Miami-Dade, with a population of 2,496,435, has 13 single-member districts. That’s 192,033 people per single member.

Broward, with a population of 1,748,066, has nine single-member districts; that’s 194,229 people per single member.

Palm Beach, with 1,320,134 people, has seven single-member districts. That’s 188,590 people per single member.

And Orange, with 1,145,956 people, has six single-member districts. That’s 190,992 people per single member.

Hillsborough, with a population of 1,229,226, has four single-member districts and three at-large. The population per single member is about 307,300.

The county commission needs to reflect the racial diversity of the makeup of our citizens. The most rapidly growing population group in our county is Hispanics. The county’s Hispanic population in 1980 was 64,199, equaling 10 percent of the county’s population. Today, the Hispanic population is 306,635, equaling 25 percent of the overall county’s population. However, there are no Hispanics on the county commission. There is a strong possibility that if we create five single-member districts, a Hispanic can be elected to the county commission.

I am asking that the voting public be allowed to vote in the 2014 elections on the issue of changing the makeup of the Hillsborough County Commission from four single-member districts to five single-member districts.

I will bring this to the county commission at our May 15 meeting and request a proposed draft ordinance, with one or more public hearings or workshops.


Les Miller is a Hillsborough County commissioner (District 3).

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