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Redistricting Field Hearing: The Senate Comes to UH

Just now getting the laptop opened here at Cemo Hall on the UH Campus. The committee is gavelled in. Reps. Gene Wu and Rick Miller are at the front table since they're from the area. Sen. Rodney Ellis also present as a non-committee member. Chairman Seliger notes that written testimony can be submitted to the committee and that it will count the same for the public record. The deadline for that is June 12th.

11:10 am ... Sen. Garcia opens up with a retelling of Texas' history with regard to the Voting Rights Act. She also states the case for another Hispanic Congressional district in Houston and DFW.

11:15 am ... Sen. Zaffarini offers a shout-out to her fellow Coogs. Eat 'em up!

11:15 am ... we get going with the testimony.

- CJ Farley - echoes Sen. Garcia's arguments.

- Rey Guerra - more seconding of Sen. Garcia's arguments. Lays out some math for the second Hispanic Congressional seat, suggesting that not doing so is a Sec. 5 violation of the Voting Rights Act. Garcia asking some friendly questions about the need for a second Hispanic Congressional seat. Zaffarini asks from friendly questions to get him on record as being against SB4.

- I missed the name of the guy after Rey. Joe Cardenas, III - a high school teacher, involved with LULAC, and Texas HOPE. Questions the sincerity of the process. One problem of the Senate hearing process is that names aren't shown on a display, as they are in the House. So I'm sure that I'll miss a few names.

Sidenote: I saw the stack of witness cards upon coming in. Looks like this hearing can be reasonable in length. This doesn't look like it'll last as long as the Dallas hearing. Fine by me - I need to be at church by three!

- Jim Vogas - Galveston County (unofficially) representing! Notes that of the two House districts, one is more Anglo (mainland) and another is more minority (island). Wants to see HD23 drawn to represent more of the low-income, minority population of the county. Hitchcock, and to a lesser extent Dickinson, is offered as being misplaced in HD24.

- Albert Cheng - half-Mexican, half-Chinese, lives in a Jewish neighborhood. Making the case that he does not feel discriminated by the lines of the current maps. Says its racist that he needs to be represented by someone who is Chinese or Hispanic. He's missing the point by a mile of what it means to be a "candidate of choice" by pointing out the Gene Green issue with minority opportunity districts.

- Erica Lee - member of Harris County Board of Education. Opposed to SB1, 2, 3, & 4 on Section 5 grounds. Also puts a marker down as being against retrogression in CD18. Seliger pounces on the topic of retrogression in CD18. Not sure that Lee knew where she was going with that point. It's tough to create African-American districts with the growth of Hispanic population. That's retrogression. Lee offers that cutting out Montrose is retrogressive to the district.

- Marty Kerner - Sharpstown representin'!!! Notes that two precincts are missing from HD137. It was in the district that Hochberg represented and Hochberg had testified that the new district was drawn to favor him over an Asian candidate. Opposed to the House map on those grounds.

- Paul Simpson - in favor of the four plans on grounds that it would be more efficient for the election process. Stability of the process is his main point. Second point is the same misunderstanding of minority opportunity districts, suggesting that only a member of voters' race is what the law protects. It is not. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of the law.

- Joseph Tijerina - Going off on a tangent about ethics law. Somehow comes back around to making some of the standard arguments for minority opportunity districts around the state.

- Kyle Longhoffer - Fort Bend county representing! Opposed to all four maps. Notes the fracturing of population there. Good to hear this! It's not necessarily a partisan argument, though, as he notes the splitting of Congressional lines in the county to help Al Green.

- Carolyn Mata - President of League of Women Voters Houston Area. Also ... a constituent of HD137! Her case is the standard LWV argument for fair process and fairness for minority populations.

- Daniel Box - Houston Org. of Public Employees. Accepting current maps is "lazy". Texas should lead the nation in how to do redistricting fairly given our diversity.

- Shelia Jackson Lee arrives and is given the opportunity to address the committee. Afterward, Sen. West asks her about the possibility of a second minority district.

A little news breaking during the hearing:

- Tanya Dubose - Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations and resident of Independence Heights. Opposed to all maps, in favor of new minority Congressional district and protection of existing minority districts.

- Albert G. Gonzales - offering a lay-person's testimony. Suggests that anyone talking about racism/values doesn't know what he experienced in post-war San Antonio.

- Richard Murray - representing himself. Serves up some historic perspective of minority opportunity districts represented by non-minorities. This is contrasted with current examples and court testimony that demonstrates treatment that the VRA is designed to protect against. Properly notes that the Voting Rights Act does not mean a Hispanic opp. district needs to be represented by a Hispanic. Same for any other minority. It is about those voters having the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Also goes on against packing of minorities into a minimal number of districts. Notes that gerrymandering isn't always racial - it can also involve packing or cracking. Interesting hearing the Doctor speak favorably on the need to use new American Community Survey data. Can't help but wonder if that'll be consistent in the lawsuit over the County Commissioner map here in Harris County.

- Carlos Duarte - Ft. Bend rep from Mi Familia Vota. Opposed to SB1, 3, & 4.

- Congressman Al Green is recognized as "Gene" by Chairman Seliger. Al is now addressing the committee. Notes the diversity of the 9th district and introduces a letter from the Congressional Black Caucus to put on public record. He's not seeking changes to his district.

- Donald Bankston - More Ft. Bend representing here. Member of State Democratic Executive Committee. Opposed to SB1, 3 & 4. Thanks the committee for their work, but doesn't think it needs to be done. Wants to see the courts continue their work. Serves up some detail on Ft. Bend County, namely HD26. Goes into some detail on the outcome of the GOP primary in that district. Rep. Miller is here, so maybe there'll be some good back & forth. Also goes into retrogression of CD27.

- Bernice Owens - Houston-area activist. Points to treatment of Jacinto City in the Senate map. The town is split in half on the Senate map and apparently has some issues in the Congressional map. I think they're going to fix this just to make Mrs. Owens leave them alone. Good Community of Interest argument here. For the record, chairman Seliger turned the gavel over to Sen. Uresti before this. Probably a smart move on his part.

Sidenote: Sen. Zaffarini notes that there are 30 more witnesses, with 20 gone through so far.

- Rebecca Reyna - Greater Northside Management District.

- Robert Tomlinson - "Concerned citizen" ... doesn't understand why we need courts to draw maps. Wants lege to do it fairly. Doesn't see how it's so hard.

- Kim D. - representing Jacinto City and Songroad neighborhood. Opposed to the JC split. Here's what the divide looks like on the Senate map:

The demographic coding indicates why the city was split. The two areas of Afr-Am CVAP majority are in black - they are outside of SD6 and also in CD18.

- Rogene Calvert - Representing the Texas Asian-American Redistricting Initiative, raising the point about Pct 311 in HD137 again. Here's the nut of the argument for that precinct. Testimony by Hochberg, plus resolutions by Sharpstown civic leaders in 2011 were offered.

Sidenote: Michael Li blogs on the meaning of "candidate of choice".

- Kenneth D. -

- Sue Mlot - Dem. precinct chair of Pct 41 on Harris/Mont. county line near the new Exxon Mobile development. Notes her Afr.-Am. development being split in half to accomodate Ted Poe's new CD2.

- Cesar Espinoza - not present. Committee taking a 10-min break.

- Lori Flores - Suggests that her heavily Hispanic precinct should not be represented by Afr.-Am. leadership.

- Robert Gallegos - representing himself, wants a "fair" Congressional map that protects existing minority districts. Current map doesn't represent the overall growth in minority population around the state. New minority districts in Harris and DFW are mentioned.

- Charles Meyer - Lawyer from Lumberton, business interests in The Woodlands. Was a write-in candidate in CD18 in 2010 and for the GOP nomination in CD36 in 2012. Reluctantly in favor of all four bills, but isn't a fan of the Congressional map b/c of CD36. He wants the state to stop spending money needlessly. Also opposed on grounds that he expects Sec. 5 of VRA to be partially undone in the Shelby case, which would likely lead to even newer maps.

- Tomaro Bell - representing herself, but also VP of Houston's Super Neighborhood Alliance. Wants the committee to take their time to do the maps right. Also opposed to Greg Abbott spending state money to fight against the Voting Rights Act.

- Jeannette Sexton - just found out about the hearings a few hours ago. Ran against Robert Talton in HD144 in 2006. Making some standard arguments in favor of minority opportunity Congressional Districts, also favors independent redistricting commission.

- Alejandra - addressing the committee in Spanish. Sen. Zaffarini notes her testimony about the lack of notice for the hearing and the lack of information about what the interim maps do or don't do.

- Cody Ray Wheeler - Pasadena City Councilman, representing himself. He is the second Hispanic CM on Pasadena City Council.

- Rodrigo Carrellon - from Fort Bend County, pretty empassioned layperson's testimony about how the maps are not representative for minority voters.

- Lucille Martin - no show

- Lucy Moreno - President of a senior group in Houston, longtime community activist. A little unfocused argument that seems to support a second Hispanic Congressional district.

- Jesse Rodriguez - against the maps, encourages the committee to hire Dr. Murray.

- John Gorczynski - a shout-out to Rep. Gene Wu for taking time away from his pregnant wife. Echoes support for minority opportunity districts around the state, as well as enhancing CD23 extending west from San Antonio. Shares an endorsement from Corpus Christi Young Dems in favor of a better House district there.

- Norman Horowitz - opposed to all four bills, with particular problems with Austin Congressional district.

- Dorothy Olmos - Community activist in SD6 - also a frequent GOP candidate for a variety of seats. She's in favor of a new Hispanic Congressional seat in Houston, though.

- William & Lisa D - From Pct 550 in north Harris County. William kinda likes his country. He has an issue with his lack of representation in Congress. He is represented in a VRA-protected district forced to be minority majority - it's CD18. She says SJL lies and speaks against her country. Says SJL doesn't "give a flip" about him. Where's Sen. Estes to question this kid? Ultimately, he wants Pct 550 put in CD2.

- Brandon Capatillo - no show

- Stephen Brown - more Ft. Bend showing up here. Good to see these guys showing up. Stephen re-emphasizes the near-evenness of diversity in Ft. Bend - almost 25% Asian, Anglo, Afr-Am, and Hispanic. Really makes a good point for the Asian population having a better opportunity district in the county. Rick Miller has got to be hating this, but the district drawn in H302 is still marginally Republican.

- James Cargas - Dem nominee in CD7 in 2012. Urges district to look at Plan C236 for treatment of Harris County. This plan puts Montrose back in CD7, as well as Dem-friendly Pct. 222, where Cargas lives. Not sure that a lot of folks in Montrose are going to like that approach.

- Kevin Hoffman - re-emphasizes opposition to retrogression. Mentions the treatment of Montrose in the Congressional map, wants it included in CD18.

Sidenote: four of the nine senators on the panel are holding their heads up with a fist to their chin. Seliger looks to be intently chewing on his glasses. Tough draw to go through long hearings around the state - it's an aspect of the job I don't envy.

- Erica Ward - generally opposed to the maps. Sen. Garcia clarifies with a question - opposed to all of 'em.

- Gloria Cephus - Pct chair for 759 in Jacinto City. Proud to see the city of my birth being so thoroughly represented. Like the others, she's opposed to the split in the Congressional and Senate map. Worth noting that Mrs. Cephus is Afr-Am, which possibly plays a role in why the town is split.

That's it for actual testimony. Done by 2:15, pending some final comments from the committee. Want to add your own comments?

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  1. Tey guy after Rey Guerra was former Texas LULAC State Director Joe Cardenas, III.

  2. Gracias!

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