Redistricting Commission Nixes Halstead's Map But Praises the Work of One Sam Merten

Categories: City Hall
SamandHisMap.JPG
Photo by Anna Merlan
At right, a former Unfair Park-er makes the case for his map to the Redistricting Commission last night.
At last, an interesting Redistricting Commission meeting. And a vaguely star-studded one too. Among those in attendance at last night's meeting: council members Dwaine Caraway, Carolyn Davis and Tennell Atkins (who didn't stick around the whole time), Schutze debating partner Sandra Crenshaw, preservationist Virgina McAlester and former plan commissioner Neil Emmons. Now, then, to the fireworks -- or what passed for them last night at City Hall.

At least one plan for re-drawing our fair city's city council boundaries appears to be dead: Commissioner Donna Halstead's map, which the commission voted 8-7 last night to "postpone indefinitely" -- this, after a discussion of the legislative and semantic differences between "tabling" and "postponing indefinitely" that went on for so long that most of the audience members either left or vaporized from boredom. The map, proposed by the president of the Dallas Citizens Council, won't be brought up again unless a commission member moves to do so, which looks unlikely.

Fellow commissioner Domingo Garcia -- like Halstead, a former member of the Dallas City Council -- was the most outspoken critic of her map, which he repeatedly argued would effectively disenfranchise minority voters in the city. He said it had the lowest Hispanic percentage of maps presented so far. "I don't think it can be fixed," he said.

Halstead's original map, cPlan10, included seven minority districts and two minority coalition districts, which didn't change much upon revision. Garcia was skeptical of the very concept of a "minority coalition" district, something he brought up during the presentation of the map designed by Shirley Stark, a District 4 resident who had several such coalition districts in her plan.

"Since 1991, can you name one Anglo majority district that elected an African-American or a Hispanic?" he asked Stark.

She couldn't.

"Would it surprise you to learn that the number is zero?" he said. "Blacks and browns will vote for an Anglo, but it appears the north side of town still has a problem ... voting for anyone black or brown."

Aside from Stark, the other civic-minded members of the public who submitted maps were Bill Betzen (his third); Benjamin Lopez, a 26-year-old corporate recruiter; and Some Dude Who Used to Work Here Named Sam Merten.

The commission was absolutely tickled by the opportunity to interview Sam, who's arguing that Deep Ellum should be blocked with East Dallas and whose plan, like Benjamin Lopez's, does away with Pauline Medrano's district.

"I've been covering city of Dallas politics for a long time," he told the commission, adding that the computer program the City has provided to let the public design their own maps was "addictive." I guess we all have our own ideas of what constitutes a fun leisure-time activity.

Commissioner Elizabeth Jones just had one question for Merten after his presentation. "What would it take for you to move back to Dallas?"

Despite the fact that the commission has encouraged members of the public to submit maps, they were a little more befuddled by the presence of Lopez, who said he's never gotten involved in city politics before. John Loza, a commission member, found at least three different ways to ask him, politely, why the hell anyone would spend their free time re-drawing city districts. "I don't claim to be an expert at this," Lopez said. "But I take pride in my community."

Garcia added during the discussion of Halstead's map that he has yet to see a "unity map" that fairly represents all of the city's residents. Maybe this is a phrase we should expect to see again Thursday night, when the commissioners have their final deadline to submit their own plans.

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18 comments
Bart
Bart

Sam Merten is a joke.

The Ghost of Tony Brown
The Ghost of Tony Brown

I wrote an editorial in Black Dallas News many many moons ago after that idiot honky Federal Judge ordered single member districts. Blacks don't trust blacks cuz they know each other. The brown culture is just a corrupt, family based mob and them honky folks just wanna get along, make money and give peace a chance and if it takes a large checkbook, WTF ( That don't stand for Win the Future) throw in the fruits, nuts and flakes that invaded Big D in 70's and 80's and Big D was screwed. That's why us straits squatted on 976-AIDS until the fruits got a clue and made us rich. We took our guns, bibles and fishin' poles and moved to ranchettes in East Texas. Good luck with yo brain farts, we'll light a match for ya cuz Gassland is the least of your worries.  

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

"I guess we all have our own ideas of what constitutes a fun leisure-time activity."

Don't knock it till you try it.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Leppert wasn't a minority??  Now you tell me!  Next your going to tell me Laura Miller wasn't as sista!!

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Based on current city election results patterns, Shirley Starks' minority coalition districts would likely always elect an anglo.  Minority communities would most likely have even less representation at City Hall. Could see it also resulting in even more back-room horse trading than we have now.  I love the wishful thinking part, but believe it's really just magical thinking in reality. 

RTGolden
RTGolden

wow.  Take the tinfoil hat off before microwaving your noggin.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

Honky?What is this, an episode of The Jeffersons?

Montemalone
Montemalone

I believe the correct dosage is 3 pills, you're short a couple.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Man, my yarmulke's off to ya, Sam. I signed up for the thing and tried my hand at the process -- and just about drank myself right out of a fresh bottle of Old Fitz. The big one too -- gallon-sized. Very impressed. You're welcome to be my mapmaker any day.

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

Hey dude, I spent my evening watching people talking about drawing maps. I have no grounds to make fun of you. (But I did anyway. After not saying hi. Sorry about that.) 

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Thanks, kind sir. I found myself waking up in the morning having dreamed about certain blocks. Very consuming stuff.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Yeah, I was hoping you'd introduce yourself, but apology accepted.

Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

I could not agree with you more Sam about snaking disticts! I also tamed District 2, but in more of the current area of District 2 east of Carroll Ave, then east acoss White Rock Creek to take in the Hispanic Community between Forney & Bruton Roads. 

My wPlan03 eliminated 90+% of the gerrymandered district boundaries in Dallas, erasing 166 miles of such boundaries, but more is possible.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

To provide some context, Commissioner Garcia asked me why my proposed District 2 didn’t include any of the current district, noting that the presenter before me (Mr. Lopez) had made a similar decision.

I corrected Garcia, explaining to him that my proposed District 2 had some of its current area, most notably Deep Ellum. And then I added something along the lines of, “Now Deep Ellum has been grouped with folks in East Dallas.”

Why did I do that? Well, as I told Garcia, I tried to eliminate districts that snaked across the city, and District 2 certainly does so now. And, perhaps some will disagree, but I also believe Deep Ellum associates better with East Dallas than communities west of I-35.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

What's your thought process on Deep Ellum/East Dallas?

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