Sometimes the right thing gets done — and even for the right reasons. Such was the case on Monday, when the oft-contentious Shelby County Commission seemed bound to indulge itself in another round of pointless gridlock and
throw one more bender that would leave due process, the community, and the body politic at large with a lasting hangover.
Undoubtedly, county Election Administrator Rich Holden protested too much when he laid the blame for hasty and last-minute district maps in the elections of 2012 on the failure of the County Commission to honor its deadline for completing redistricting after the census of 2010.
A state investigation and county audit found other reasons for the problems that surfaced that year with the issuance of thousands of wrong ballots, and most of those reasons lay within Holden's own province. Besides, the Commission's new 13-member single-district system was not scheduled to be in place until this year. So Holden and the Shelby County Election Commisson (SCEC) could just have bypassed the issue of redistricting for the County Commission and gotten the maps that counted in shape for an error-free election cycle.
Still, the administrator had a point. The Commission delayed making up its mind on its district maps for an unconsciionably long time. The deadline for their self-reapportionment had been December 31, 2011, and it wasn't until Chancellor Arnold Goldin had to make a redistricting decision for them by issuing a summary judgment in mid-June 2012 that the Commission's 13 single-member districts were made official. Neither side had bent; it took Goldin to break the impasse. And maybe Holden and the SCEC would indeed have presided over an error-free election season in 2012 if they hadn't decided to wait the commission out.
A specter of the same sort as 2012 loomed over Monday's commission meeting. The issue this time was whether to adopt a nine-district map for the Shelby County Schools (SCS) board or a seven-district map. The coalition that had consistently taken the side of SCS against the suburbs was for nine districts. Those who had backed municipal school districts in the suburbs wanted seven districts, and they also wanted to add on to the new District 4 that portion of Germantown where three SCS schools are located — in effect giving the residents of that area votes in two different school districts — SCS and the new Germantown municipal system.
This was the last regular commission meeting before the SCEC's de facto March 3rd deadline for allocating precincts for the next round of SCS elections. So they needed the maps. Yet the two factions deadlocked and started talking about postponing a decision for days, maybe weeks. A case of Here We Go Again?
Except suburban Commissioner Steve Basar, who had been on the prevailing side in one of the procedural votes that had blocked consensus, evidently decided that the commission, this time anyhow, shouldn't tempt the fates. He asked for reconsideration, changed his vote, and ultimately the Commission was able to vote for a plan assigning nine districts, confined to the areas being served by SCS. Your move, Election Commission.
We congratulate Commissioner Basar and hope he doesn't get too much constituent flak for his eminently sensible decision.