Should the Wake County school board have requested an additional redistricting map to review before approving the lines that will be used for elections over the next 10 years?
As noted in today's article, the issue of only having one map split the board in the 5-3 vote. Kevin Hill, Anne McLaurin and Keith Sutton unsuccessfully urged the board to ask Kieran Shanahan to come up with an additional map to consider before holding a final vote.
The other school board members said they were reasonably satisfied with the map and felt there was not a need to draw up any other options.
The discussion began with Shanahan addressing the board and the criticism from the Great Schools in Wake Coalition and Knightdale about the map.
Shanahan acknowledged that they may have mislabeled the written description for some of the precincts. But he said the maps they provided were accurate and that people could have blown them up enough online to tell which district they're in.
"We do stand by the maps we provided to you as being accurate and consistent," Shanahan said.
On the concerns of Knightdale being split into multiple districts, Shanahan pointed to how Raleigh is split as well. School board member Chris Malone quickly added that it shows Knightdale is "not being singled out."
Shanahan brought up the example of how Wake County is represented by three Congressmen. He said that having multiple school board representatives could help Knightdale.
Shanahan said that splitting up Knightdale wasn't intentional and he doesn't believe they’re harmed by it or treated any differently from other municipalities.
Noting that District 4 had gotten part of Knightdale to help it grow, he said that redoing the map could result in a ripple effect.
Shanahan said his ability to redraw the lines was limited by the board's desire to not dramatically change the boundaries. He said the current general boundary lines between Raleigh and county board seats were agreed to by the General Assembly as part of the merger.
School board member John Tedesco asked if was possible to make all of the Inside the Beltline area into one district. Shanahan's answer was yes.
Shanahan defended his map as he said he had looked at the data for alternative maps submitted by other groups. But he said some of their data was "inaccurate" and did not include the input from school board members.
"I feel comfortable we have submitted a proposal that meets all the guidelines," Shanahan said.
School board chairman Ron Margiotta brought up the private small-group meetings that Shanahan held with board members to address concerns.
"We made an attempt working with our advisors to satisfy us as a board," Margiotta said.
Sutton said he appreciated having his input heard. But he said the "flaw in the process" was that the meetings weren't done in a public setting.
Margiotta replied back on how the board has traditionally received private briefings from staff about student assignment.
McLaurin said Shanahan had "presented a good plan." But she said they can ask him to draft another good plan that would address issues such as her district and Knightdale.
Hill said there was "no doubt" that the map would pass constitutional muster, But he says he wished they had worked with other groups, adding he "can't think of anyone more unbiased than the League of Women Voters." (Considering that LWV has opposed ending the diversity policy, Hill would get disagreement from some other board members.)
Hill said he'd liked to have developed a map that didn't split precincts.
Hill complained that the board hadn't had a "dedicated work session" to discuss changes to the plan, calling Tuesday's discussion "just show and tell."
Margiotta shot back that Hill always calls the work sessions "show and tell."
McLaurin asked if they could ask Shanahan to come back with a map that kept Knightdale in one district. Margiotta replied he really didn't think they could really do that at this point.
Board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman said that coming up with an alternative map would mean the new suggestions would outweigh those that were already made.
Margiotta said he wasn't particularly happy with the changes to his district but he could live with it. McLaurin said she could propose trading some precincts with Margiotta.
Board member Chris Malone pointed to how "barely anyone showed up" to speak at last week's public hearing. Sutton responded that those who did come suggested changes.
"I’m not completely happy with what I see here," Malone said. "I’ve gone over the maps because the people of Knightdale asked me to. It’s problematic seeing what else we can do.”
“I don’t know what else we could have done in my district," Malone added. "I know Mr. Shanahan has done a very fair job that will pass constitutional muster and met all of our requirements.”
Goldman mentioned the concept brought up at the February board retreat about board members not agreeing on everything but at least being "reasonably satisfied."
"It’s not a question of being fair or the quality of Mr. Shanahan's work or being reasonably satisfied," Sutton replied. "It’s a question of having a couple of options."
McLaurin said Shanahan can make two good maps, prompting him to say that it could lead to complaints from a whole new group about the changes. He said board members "can’t be too parochial to favor yourself."
Malone said he's been hearing criticism from both sides, including "people on our side." When that drew grumbling from the audience, he qualified his remarks to say he was talking about people who were pro-community schools. He said they could have drawn up maps to favor more of those people.
Goldman said that while she understood Knightdale's concern, she said the map was moving in a positive direction by reducing how many districts Cary and Morrisville are split into.
Hill said he wasn't asking about "blowing things up." He said he just wanted to give suggestions for "some tweaks."
Board member Carolyn Morrison asked board attorney Ann Majestic if there was anything "illegal" about the maps. Majestic declined to answer, saying she wasn't an expert in the field.
Tedesco brought up how Majestic had said in April that the map appeared to be fine. But Majestic replied that while the map sounds compliant with current case law that she wasn't current on election law.
Sutton said he wasn't questioning the product because Shanahan did a "good job." But he said he's questioning how they only had one option
Margiotta replied that if Sutton was happy with the product then he should vote for it. Sutton responded that he wasn't saying he was happy with the process. He was just saying he was unhappy with the process used.
If staff could work on nine student assignment proposals and whittle it down to two, Sutton said they should be able to emulate that with more than one redistricting map.
Morrison said she feels comfortable with the changes to District 6 and that no one in the district had complained about the lines. She said she was willing to make changes if it didn't negatively impact District 6.
Both Goldman and Sutton said they also liked how their districts looked in the map. But Sutton said he was still questioning the process.
Hill said he was only talking about some tweaks that wouldn't necessarily have a domino-effect on eight or nine districts.
McLaurin added that the trade she wanted to make with Margiotta wouldn't affect other districts.
Tedesco said he wasn't happy with his district, considering how he's losing part of Fuquay-Varina and now getting part of Holly Springs
Tedesco said that if they were going to look at other options then he wanted to look at a "substantial change" with District 5 becoming the Inside the Beltline district. He said District 4 could be pushed eastward to Knightdale.
Despite his qualms about the map, Tedesco said he liked the process that was used. Like Malone, he pointed to the low turnout at last week's hearing to say there weren't many "disgruntled residents."
The ensuing straw vote went 5-3 to use the Shanahan map, the same as what later took place during the regular meeting. As she voted for the Shanahan map, Deborah Prickett joined Tedesco in saying she'd want to look at a major rewrite if they looked at other options.
A motion by Sutton to insert the guidelines used for the map in the resolution adopting the districts was defeated in a 5-4 vote. In this party line vote, the majority members said it was unnecessary to do so.
Margiotta closed out the discussion by saying he would have voted for the Shanahan map if it was needed to break a tie. He called it the "most non-partisan plan" that they could have adopted.