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COH Redistricting: Public Hearing #2 Live-blog

I'm in council for this hearing. There's other news going on around the state involving cartography and numbers. The State Rep map has passed committee. I'll be all over that as soon as I get this bit of work behind me. But we're back at City Council t 7pm tonight and that's the last chance for the public to be heard.

There's a few knowns about what will happen with the city map and maybe a few surprises that come up today. I'll be all over those once the ball gets moving here at council.

One known is that there are likely to be several iterations of "alternate" plans put forth. One of which is this one, offered by some younger Hispanic/Latino activists. I was shown this map and offered my services to make some improvements to it. Namely, it has Hoang in a Galleria/Tanglewood district, Pennington in the Heights/Montrose district, and Alief is torn asunder. It did include the north/northwest district that I've been drafting for a Hispanic opportunity district, which I'm grateful for. But I'm told that such a district is a non-starter to one of the incumbent Hispanic council members who does not want to lose one single precinct from what the mayor has proposed. For that reason alone, there will not be a third Hispanic opportunity district coming from council.

Here's the info packet I've been showing & telling instead of blogging recently. I've had a few rounds of fact-checking and hole-poking of it, but if there's anything you readers happen to find that could be improved or edited, please let me know. This plan will be officially submitted after this morning's hearing.

9:07 ... people are settling in. Mayor is here. Part of council is here. Still waiting to start.
9:08 ... just as I typed, the gavel bangs. Formalities, introductions, VIPs, and whatnot are being gone over.

9:17 ... the show begins. CM Rodriguez motions to add Robert Jara to the list of speakers for today. Jara is the one who spoke at the end of last week's hearing, saying he opposed the split of Sharpstown and Gulfton. There's a map with that floating around. The CVAP numbers are off-the-charts bad (<25%), so it's not really a Hispanic district and Jara admits that it's not created as such. It is, however, a solid community-of-interest argument. First up is Willie James (sp?). The District D vs District K line definition is still being aired out. Pct 336 is the precinct being discussed here. Linda Spurlock is back up after last week. I believe she was one of the speakers I glossed over last time. I believe this is still the D/K division being discussed. She's got 6 points to cover in 3 minutes. At specific issue seems to be the inclusion of Pct 336 is being left in D, while it has more in common with the newly-constructed District K. The population of that pct is nearly all on the western side of Highway 288.

Mark Williamson up. President of Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council (ref) is now up. I think we all know the pitch here.

Dr. Laura Murillo - President of Hispanic Chamber is now up. Says the admin's map is not acceptable. Says that the consensus of the meeting was that a hybrid map of various proposals would be more acceptable. Not sure if that's one that includes the north/northwest Hispanic district or just the southwest district. But I'd expect the southwest-only version to be a face-saver for some on council. Not sure that it will happen, but we'll see. CM Rodriguez starts the questioning. Mostly praise for putting the group together. CM Stardig questions next. Just glanced at the map and it's going to be the southwest-only district. That's a face-saver and nothing else. The district, as-drafted, is plurality Anglo and the Hispanic numbers aren't strong. Wonder if a council member is going to ask Robert Jara if it was created as a Hispanic opportunity district.

Robert Jara is up now, going over the map. He says the district is 63% Hispanic (not CVAP, though). He's now calling it a Hispanic opportunity district. That's very different than what he was saying earlier. The map does put Hoang in a better Asian district, but the balance of political power shifts more to the north and it's not clear to me that an Asian gets elected out of there. CM Adams asks questions now about district letter assignments. CM Noriega up next, saying the division of Sharpstown & Gulfton may or may not be a legal weakness of the proposed plan. CM Jones up again with the lettering designations. The issue here is that the Planning Department software only spits out the maps with district numbers, no letters. Jones also asks about Afr.-Am. percentages in B, D, & K, also asks Jerry Wood for comparison to proposed plan. CM Hoang asks about Asian numbers. In the now-far-western District F (think Alief+north), the Asian community is divided. The numbers are marginally better for Asians, but it's not the same community of interest definition that exists in the present and proposed District F. Hoang also asks if the Jara plan was vetted by Asian redistricting folks - it wasn't. CM Rodriguez is up next with Robert. Asks what is "accomplished" in his plan. Robert notes that there were other ideas (that would be mine) that prove you can create a majority Hispanic district that is a better opportunity, but that there was no political will to create it. Rodriguez also asks for Jara's recap of the Monday meeting at the Hispanic Chamber. CM Adams up now. She asks about the splitting of Hispanics around the ship channel and why that wasn't considered fracturing. Wood comes up with an explanation that those areas are not as high Hispanic percentages that it would lead to sufficient strengthening Hispanic numbers to warrant splitting Kingwood and Clear Lake.

Joe Padilla - has a petition that Denver Harbor wants to be whole within District H.

Chris Oliver - Houston Community College trustee. I'm not quite familiar with his argument - something about communities of interest being made whole around HCC campuses.

We're taking a break for the reporter to shake off some carpal tunnel syndrome and move through some agenda items.

Up Next for the public hearing:
Jonathan Fong

INTERIM: This is off the redistricting plate, but the first agenda item up for discussion is a $12.5M contract for a firm to rehab 488 unites of an apartment complex. That's $25,600+ per unit. CM Johnson notes that 30% of the contract is already going to go out of his district. He wants to see the money to go toward creating jobs in the area.

SIDENOTE: John Gorczynski is live-tweeting the council hearing. What? ... nobody's live-facebooking?

SIDENOTE 2.0: Just got handed a plan for 16 single member districts that Vidal Martinez is putting forth. Here's the map. Here's the math. Outcome is as follows: 3 strong Hispanic districts. The Gulfton/Sharpstown idea is still a weak opportunity, but made stronger than the Jara plan due to the lower ideal population count.

SIDENOTE 3.0: The council is still talking about the same apartment complex fixup loan. Been a good long while, but it sounds like there's some valid questions. In the meantime, here's some recommended reading on the new DOJ procedures for enforcing the Voting Rights Act. Of particular interest:

The single fact that a jurisdiction’s proposed redistricting plan does not contain the maximum possible number of districts in which minority group members are a majority of the population or have the ability to elect candidates of choice to office, does not mandate that the Attorney General interpose an objection based on a failure to demonstrate the absence of a discriminatory purpose. Rather, the Attorney General will base the determination on a review of the plan in its entirety.

So, according to my highly non-legal expertise, the sheer absence of a third Hispanic opportunity district isn't enough to block the administration's proposed plan. but if there are extenuating issues (and there seems to be a few) that prevented that from being drawn, it looks like the burden of proof is eased a bit. Page three of that doc is the most entertaining read I've had this year.

Minutes before 11am and we're back to the redistricting fracas. John Martin is up first. We're back to the debate over Precinct 366 on the south side of town. I think I'm seeing the issue now. Check the boundary of Buffum St. The precinct boundary is hte middle of the street. So those folks on the other side of the street are in a pct dominated by folks on the other side of 288. The map configuration in the admin proposed map keeps the two precincts together. Folks on the other side of 288 don't like it. But it looks tough to break.

Jonathan Fong - Asian stuff being discussed. CM Hoang uses the opportunity to swat down the Jara plan, saying that it looks like Jara does not support the Asian community.

Charles Hebert up next. Wants the HCC South campus in District D. That might be the same issue that Chris Oliver was raising.

SIDENOTE: Campos blogs the following:

It looks like the local Latino leadership that has been meeting to plot strategy on City of H-Town redistricting has endorsed a plan.

Whatever the opposite of truth is, that's what that is. The "consensus" was that everyone would leave it up to Rodriguez, Gonzalez, and Noriega. There was no endorsed plan. Dr. Laura Murillo did state her support of the Jara plan, but that was not the consensus of the room. Here's the email sent by Dr. Murillo after the meeting:

Per our meeting, we look forward to receiving a map mutually agreed upon by Council Member Rodriguez, Council Member Gonzalez and Council Member Noriega.

That's not the same as "Local Latino leadership" agreeing on a plan.

Rita Foretich is now back up. She spoke last week, so it's a continuation of her comments from then. Vivian Harris up afterward and she's another repeat from last week. Harris is on the other side of the D/K line, as proposed. She wants to be in District D instead of K. It would take a gerrymandered cut to add it. Doable, but it seems like an odd fit. Even odder, she doesn't take any truck with CM Adams. I'm sure that there is something I'm missing.

Rogene Calvert up now. She's responding to the Jara map, noting that it splits Asia Town. Wants the western border to be Gessner instead of the Beltway before it can be acceptable. CM Jones goes up first with Rogene, noting the bigger split that the Jara map executes, breaking out the Gahndi District from the area as well. This all comes down to the simple fact that between Alief, Sharpstown, and Gulfton, any two can create a district ... but it gets dicey when you try to incorporate all three. CM Hoang follows, noting the Asian community's support for a third Hispanic district, but also a strong opportunity for Asians. The area being debated puts a few of those shared interests at odds.

Becky Bowyers was on the list, but isn't present when called. So Chuck Davidson is up next. Dude's wearing fishing shorts. Gotta love City Council hearings. He's got his own plan, says he's ignoring one of the city's guidelines for redistricting ("f"). For some odd reason, the city site isn't loading for me, so I'm not able to check that out. (UPDATE: "Preservation of incumbent-constituency relations by recognition of the residence of existing members of the Council and their history in representing certain areas." ... he said that he didn't bother to worry about where incumbents lived).

Cindy Dinh up now. Rice Univ. student talking about more Asian stuff. Talking about boosting Asian #s in the proposed Dist. F by flipping pcts 565 (out) and 620 (in).

Vidal Martinez up next . He's noting that other big cities have dropped at-large districts and uses 16 single member districts. He says that Dallas had a hybrid 8-5-1 system, but was forced to go to single-member districts. San Antonio tried twice to incorporate a hybrid system, but were blocked by DOJ both times. His plan as three strong and one weak Hispanic district - all winnable. That would come to 25% of council being represented, which tracks with the CVAP share of Houston's Hispanic population. CM Jones offers her support for 16 SMDs. CM Gonzalez asks if this plan requires a charter change. Martinez notes that Sen. Gallegos is willing to file a local bill to allow the change to be made in a timely manner. CM Clutterbuck follows, saying she likes the 16 plan. Yes, you read that right ... Clutterbuck and Jones on the same side. She follows, asking Mayor Parker what comes up for a vote. The administration will put forth a plan and that substitutes can be offered. MAP then asks if the ability of previous council members to get elected citywide would be countering evidence to a DOJ challenge on these grounds. CM Noriega follows, asking about a route forward if the state needed to allow the city to change it's charter.

We're re-calling some missing folks now: Bessie Swindell and Margaret Jenkins. Other than that ... see ya back here at 7pm.

Post-Mortem: Miya has a still image of the Jara plan. I've emailed the mighty and wonderful Planning Department for shapefiles. If they're able to respond quickly, I'll google-ise it so that normal people can figure out what's what with it.

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Re Clutterbuck agreeing with Jones. It could have been any district CM. All district CMs wonder what the heck the at-large CMs do with themselves most days; administering to specific constituents takes up a huge amount of time.

  2. No doubt … at least up to the point of where a district CM risks losing particular precincts or has difficulty joining two or more spread-out areas within a district.

  3. Christopher Oliver is an elected trustee of Houston Community College. He represents District IX in which I live. I think he should not have said “we” wanted Willie Lee Gay HCC to remain in the proposed District D. He does not speak for me. Was he speaking for the whole HCC Board of Trustees?

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