The East Naples Civic Association worked with county staff from the beginning of the redistricting process. Our board members attended three of the five public hearings by staff and met with all five Commissioners advocating for what would become Map 4A. This map was developed alongside staff with the assistance of Commissioner LoCastro after it was brought to him by ENCA.
At the board meeting on December 14th, I made our case on behalf of our membership advocating for Map 4A. As it was noted, this accomplished uniting East Naples in two commission districts instead of the historical three or four districts. The proposal also united the Isles of Collier within District One where it has more in common with Lely Resort, Treviso Bay and Eagle Creek among other neighborhoods. Finally, our map united Berkshire into District Four which had like attributes of neighboring Foxfire, Countryside and others along Radio Boulevard. We also noted the egregious movements of District One in the other four maps made little sense, as District One was already in line with county redistricting guidelines.
Commissioner McDaniel advocated for keeping the rural Golden Gate Estates united East of 951. This has historically been the case and served as a blue-collar base for the otherwise agricultural district. Commissioner LoCastro made his case for our proposal, with the changes, to help keep the Estates united. Staff mentioned that it was not possible, however, there were two maps that did so by moving District Three northeast along Immokalee and Vanderbilt rather than into the Estates.
Commissioner Saunders stated in favor of taking a strong stand for diversity and protecting minority rights in his Map selection. This was something all five maps accomplished. Simply put, Collier County has gotten more diverse in every commission district in the past 10 years. He made the motion to make Map Two the choice as it was supported by the League of Women Voters and the NAACP. Representatives from each of these organizations were on hand to offer their support for Map Two. Commissioner Taylor and Solis voted with Saunders for Map Two with little healthy discussion to the other Commissioners and for the first time in at least 20 years, our commission was split on the Map they selected.
When you look at Map Two and the case promoted by the League and NAACP, the focus was on District Five. But it was noted by Commissioner LoCastro that this moves District Three east. The representative speaking only noted that they were focused on District Five. This promoted robbing Peter to pay Paul - that is, the non-Hispanic voters were taken from District Five and put into District Three. This move for diversity strengthened it in one area of the county while diluting it in the other, something that should serve as a slap in the face to the Golden Gate community and Hispanic community in District Three.
We now have a map that still keeps the Isles of Collier and Berkshire divided and also has East Naples split into three districts; and for the first time in our history divides the rural Golden Gate Estates. This move could further hinder these communities' say on issues like Affordable Housing, landscaping, traffic, safety and other important debates coming down the pike.