This Whole Commission's Out of Order: City of Dallas's Redistricting Fun Really Begins

Categories: City Hall
ruth-morgan.jpg
Wonder if Ruth Morgan's having fun right about now
OK, no one has actually studied the effects of redistricting on the human body, but after last night it seems safe to say that the longer a redistricting process goes on, the grouchier everybody gets. At the county level, we have Maurine Dickey's temper tantrum as evidence. And last night's meeting of the city's Redistricting Commission  featured some yelling from the audience, some yelling from the commissioners and a few stern words from Ruth Morgan, the chair whose no-backroom-shenanigans  and keep-it-civil policies are well documented.

But, first, a guest star: Mayor Mike Rawlings showed up for a redistricting meeting for the first time last night, sitting quietly at the staff table and munching on a boxed lunch. When Morgan asked if he'd like to say anything, he replied, "No, I'm just learning and listening. ... Thank you to all of you for your time."

But Mayor Mike disappeared pretty soon after it became clear that what was to be the main event of the evening, the presentation of Dwaine Caraway's not exactly street-legal map by commissioner Billy Ratcliff, was not going to happen after all. Ratcliff announced that he wouldn't be presenting the plan, as it is still "in evolution." "It has evolved from this to the plan that I'll be presenting on August 4th."

This was not thrilling news for former city council person Sandra Crenshaw. "We signed up to speak on this plan as scheduled," she said, referring to herself and Marvin Crenshaw. Morgan allowed them both time to air their grievances about Caraway's proposed map, at which point Crenshaw said she believes it is "a violation of the code of ethics for [Ratcliff] to be advancing a map by a council member."

"This will be articulated at every public forum," she promised, and "through other means," including, she said, complaints to the Department of Justice and the city's own Ethics Commission.

The next bout of uncomfortableness came minutes later, when 24-year-old college student Randall Bryant presented his redistricting map. Donna Halstead, a commissioner fresh from her own proposed map being tabled amidst accusations from other commissioners of deliberate minority disenfranchisement, told Bryant, who is African-American, that his map was, in fact, kinda racist. Specifically, she criticized him for drawing District 10 in such a way that, according to her, "an Anglo would definitely be re-elected." But she also told him, "To look at this only in terms of the color of skin of the individuals is to be very shortsighted."

During the public comment period, former Unfair Park-er Sam Merten got up to talk about some changes he's made to his own proposal. ("Why is he speaking if he lives in Frisco?" a lady whispered agitatedly behind me. "I think he works in town," whispered her companion.) Specifically, he's moved Buckner Terrace into District 2, put all of Vickery Meadow in District 13, and all of Oak Lawn into District 14.

"The Village should not be in District 13," said a slightly testy commissioner Elizabeth Jones. "People keep trying to chew my western boundary of my district." She added that Merten's map "makes a lot of radical changes that need not be made." Domingo Garcia also asked Merten, again, why his proposal signficantly alters District 2, Pauline Medrano's district.

"I didn't make this map to protect incumbents," Merten said, very, very politely. He was equally calm with commissioner John Loza, who thanked him for coming and then said, "Now I'm gonna come after you." Loza demanded to know what the Hispanic neighborhoods along Maple -- "One of which I live in" -- have in common with Turtle Creek and Uptown. Merten replied that several districts are quite diverse, pointing to District 14 as an example.

"It doesn't sound like you have an answer for me, so I'm gonna just move on," Loza said.

"I've tried to answer your questions," Merten replied.

The low point of the meeting came during Bill Betzen's presentation: He's narrowed down his three maps to just one, and told the commission, "I really do enjoy working on these maps. ... I'm getting better all the time."

But Jones became visibly annoyed with him, telling him, "You have altered the north considerably," adding that he'd made a lot of changes to District 13. "I've told you again and again," she said, at a volume that could fairly be described as shouting, "take the Village out and put it back where it belongs!"

From the audience, Crenshaw shouted back, "The public doesn't take directives from the commission! The commission takes directives from the public."

"You're out of order," Morgan told her.

"You never call your commissioners out of order," Crenshaw replied. Morgan told her that she'd be asked to leave if she didn't abide by the rules of conduct. "That's in order," Crenshaw replied, and was quiet for the remainder of the meeting.

Jones turned back to Betzen and said, in a normal tone of voice, that she hoped he would "allow [himself] to embrace" the changes she's recommended.

Just a suggestion, but maybe the commission and the regulars in the audience might want to embrace some deep breathing exercises instead? A stress ball, perhaps? Because this thing ain't over yet by a long shot.
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20 comments
Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

A list of the 15 plans still in consideration will be narrowed down to only 5 or fewer at the 8/9/11 Commission meeting.  Here is a link to that list of 15 plans with additional links to the actual maps and the demographics produced by each map; http://dallasredistricting2011...

bbetzen
bbetzen

At tomorrow's Dallas City Council Redistricting meeting I will have copies for anyone interested of a comparison of the 22 full plans listed on the Dallas Redistricting web site and either already presented or scheduled for presentation.  The information on each plan that I use in making the comparison is linked from the web page at: http://www.dallascityhall.com/...  This updated comparison will continue the pattern of providing 8 measurements with which to compare the plans.  The 7/14/11 version of this list, comparing the first 12 plans submitted, can be found online at http://dallasredistricting2011... . Please let me know if you find any of the measurements confusing.  I will also post the updated list to my blog at http://dallasredistricting2011... as soon as it is completed tomorrow.

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

What is wrong with these Commissioners , they forget we have term limitations in Dallas City Offices.How can you give a District a current Council Members name? How does Ms. Jones think she has authority to tell a citizen how to draw their map. Are all people taking on that Tea Party mentality, angry and mad if people disagree with them? My goodness what is happening to all people. God help us,Please people get a life love somebody. 

alfredo
alfredo

The final plan will be drawn by  Federal District Court highly unlikely that any plan will be approved without a law suit    

Mike
Mike

Why did the Mayor eat a box lunch?  Did everybody get one?  Are they really that busy that they have to work through lunch and we pay for it?  Or is that a mayoral perk - free lunch?

Sd214
Sd214

Yall realize that Randall Bryant is Kathy Nealy's grandson and works for her right? So where did that plan come from again?

Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

In spite of the fireworks, last night was a rather productive meeting. I've just posted to my blog, http://dallasredistricting2011... the handout I copied and gave to all the Commisioners as I spoke that led to the interaction described above.  This map certainly needs more work and as you can see by my post, I have already responded to some of the District 13 Commissioners concerns regarding the western edge of District 13. I presume that will be acceptable. 

However, the Villiage (between NW Hwy, Lovers Lane, Skillman and Central) has 10,205 people! Weeks ago it was demanded that it be put together. Now it must be out of District 13. What happened to the idea of inclusiveness and diversity in our great city?

After more than an hour of focusing on this issue only the alternative has been to break it up again and only be able to move some of it into District 14.  It simply will not fit without terribly distorting population numbers in other districts.  I welcome others to tackle it.  

cp
cp

WTF? Why the hell should the Village be in district 13??? What does an apartment complex east of Central have in common with Preston Hollow?

And, WAY TO GO Sandra!!!

MattL1
MattL1

Wow, these meetings actually sound fairly entertaining.  Maybe they should sell tickets to the next one.  

Mike
Mike

What does the Tea Party have to do with anything in the city of Dallas?  Is there even a chapter or whatever the local unit is called in Dallas?  If we grouped everyone in Dallas that got mad at someone that disagreed with them as in the Tea Party, it would look like one of those rallies in Triumph of the Will.  I think the Tea Party does not bother with Dallas.  Pretty slim pickings in that field.

Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

While that was easy to see as happening for the Texas State redistricting plans approved, I think there is an excellent chance that we will avoid such a resolution for the Dallas City Council.  I challenge you to find any redistricting process anywhere in the nation that is more transparent, more actively accepting input, or providing more resources to the public to use in the design the redistricting maps they want to submit.  Dallas is far out in front in doing redistricting right.   Will there be problems? Certainly!  Could a map be chosen by the Dallas City Council against which a lawsuit is filed? Absolutely!  But the chances of a successful lawsuit are going down as the quality of the maps the Commissioners have to choose from improves.  Public input is critical!  Study the maps and go down to the Commission meetings and let them know your opinions. The next meeting starts in 24 hours, at 6 PM tomorrow in room 6SE of Dallas City Hall.  If you want to speak call 214-670-5735 tomorrow, 7-28-11, to have your name placed on the list of speakers. If you cannot call before 5 PM, then be at room 6SE before 5:55 PM to sign up to speak.  Or, if you just want free airconditioned entertainment for a few hours, come on down!

Lacpac2011
Lacpac2011

Alright folks, peoples children are off limits. Mr. Bryant is married with two children and has his own business. He and his grandmother's family are long time residents of Dallas, specifically Hamilton Park to West Dallas to his home in Redbird.  He mentioned at the hearing that I grilled him pretty good in private to see if the map was his creation. At least 6 commissioners equally put him to the test and he defended himself better than anything we have sitting on that council that looks like him. I still have a splitting headache trying to hold my temper as Mrs. Jones interrogated the young man like some criminal prosecutor, demanding to know "how do you make your living" and if he was a politcal consultant. "isn't it true that you get paid to work in campaigns" she yelled at him. I had promised to exercise all venues to hold reign on this renegade commission process and I was about to throw my shoe at her when I am sure the disapproval from the blacks in the audience got louder.  Blacks fought to get representation and not one of the black male commissioners Ratc liff the vice chair, called Jones out of order, especially when they are unlike most boards and commissions are not required to file financial disclosures. That's right. Since Jones is so nasty to everbody, I asked the city secretary what does she do for a living whose agenda is she carrying? No public records and yet she wanted Mr. Randall to disclose his business affiliation.  Seriously, I want to know how many government contracts tied to city government do Brashear and Ratcliff have and how many are tied to Willis Johnson, the former  go to person for minority business opportunity, now subject of FBI investigation. Halstead was condenscing and told him that the ethnic minorities get charitable services in District 10 and he should come to Lake Highlands sometime. Wow, didn't she hear he has ties to Hamilton Park. The sole black commissioner response came from Mary Hasan to Halstead. I hope that the good white folks in District 10 don't stop giving if the neighborhood goes black. ( not Quite like this, but the message was clear.    Morgan lends no leadership to this commission (See my submission to the DOJ. This process goes back to the days when blacks had to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap to vote. Ratcliff had it right this whole process has been evolving and we want to know why?

Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

It was rather obvious that Randall Bryant had designed the map he presented.  It was a good job that showed hours of work.  It was at least as good as most of the maps presented, if not better.  He was a rather impressive young man who will go places in Dallas if he continues the work ethic and discipline he showed last night. 

cp
cp

Why does D13 need 10k people from east of Central when there are plenty of dense population areas southwest of Preston Hollow in current D6?

Alan
Alan

The Village is a big chunk of population density made up of renters, who don't vote.  That leaves a whole council district fully controlled by Preston Hollow homeowners of vast--but low density--estates.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Especially if he continues to demonstrate that he has the ability to ensure that certain white politicians get re-elected....

Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

Look at the map at http://dallasredistricting2011... and remember that compactness is a goal for the redistricting process. The first step is to find each of the 14 population centers in Dallas that represent 85,558 people.  There are only 14 spots on the map for the 2010 census.  It is a mathematical/geographic calculation  Then you center each council district around that spot as closely as possible while also meeting Voting Rights Act criteria. This moves District 13 to take in the Village.   

cp
cp

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Or redistricting for that matter?

KP
KP

Some Villagers vote, including me.  We have more in common with areas south of us than northwest of us.  Heck, I don't even go north of Northwest Highway most days of the week.

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