The "will he or won't he" guessing game is history. Democrat Sam Ross says he intends to serve on the Pierce County Districting Committee, ending speculation about how political boundaries would be redrawn if he did not.
The committee’s first meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Pierce County Annex, 2401 S. 35th Street. The meeting is open to the public. All four newly appointed members have said they’ll attend.
Because the County Charter is vague on the issue, County Council attorney Susan Long said it was possible the committee would be invalid if one of its four members resigned.
That could leave the County Council to appoint the districting master, whose job is to study how the county’s population is distributed and draw up new district lines accordingly.
On a split vote in an acrimonious meeting, the council’s Republican majority agreed last week to appoint Ross, along with Democrat Ken Blair and Republicans Deryl McCarty and Mike Abernathy, to the Districting Committee.
That left the council’s two Democrats, Rick Talbert and Tim Farrell , fuming. They believed their colleagues should have let them pick the Democrats, and they criticized the council majority for selecting a man who sent the council an email saying his work schedule would prevent him from serving.
All of that put Ross, a Lakewood resident who works for UFCW Local 141, on the spot.
The committee is charged with overseeing the process by which the county’s district lines are drawn. The redistricting is done to rebalance populations within districts following the decennial census.
All this is important because the committee and its chair pick the districting master, who will formulate the plan to redraw boundaries. The prospect of the GOP-dominated council appointing the districting master did not make Democrats happy. They worried that would happen if Ross couldn’t serve.
Once the plan is drawn, the Districting Committee will adopt it. It can be amended only by four votes of the five-member committee. If the committee doesn’t act within 15 days, the plan “shall be deemed adopted,” the charter says.
All this is done on a fairly tight timeline. The Districting Committee has 30 days to meet and appoint the districting master. He or she then has two months to do the work.