At Redistricting Commission's Public Hearing, a Call to Keep Dallas's Neighborhoods Intact

Categories: City Hall
redistrictingpublichearing.JPG
Photo by Harry Wilonsky
The scene at Saturday's redistricting hearing at Dallas City Hall
The end is near! The city's Redistricting Commission has just one more meeting left before its forwards its final recommended map to the city council. And after Saturday's public forum in a jam-packed council chambers, and the commission vote that followed, it looks pretty clear that map will be cPlan16b, the one authored by commissioners Domingo Garcia, Brooks Love and Billy Ratcliff (despite our previous prediction that Bill Betzen's map would be the one moving forward).

Technically, the final vote isn't until tomorrow night, but after Saturday's forum, 10 of the 15 commission members voted to move forward with Plan16. The map's public support was pretty overwhelming, which may have done something to help the commissioners make up their minds: 62 people signed up to speak in favor of the plan Saturday, compared with 22 people who spoke for Plan 3, Bill Betzen's map, and about 10 each for and against Plan 5, which was authored by commissioner Hollis Brashear. Not all of those people actually showed up when it was their time to speak, but it was still a pretty good indicator of public sentiment.

In fact, when chair Ruth Morgan announced that due to the number of speakers for Plan 16, each person would only have 30 seconds at the mic, the crowd laughed and clapped. And when it came time for Neal Emmons to speak in favor of the map, the former city plan commissioner for District 14 turned around to face the audience and asked everyone who was there for map 16 to stand. When seemingly half the room stood up, he declared, "This is the map of our future! Thank you!" to much cheering and applause.

It was also Emmons who came by to say hi to me before the meeting started, pounded me on the back and said, jokingly, "You came out for the slugfest! Good for you!" But actually, the forum was on the whole a pretty civilized affair, even when some speakers were obviously frustrated with how their neighborhoods will likely change shape. (But Sandra Crewnshaw, Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams are still threatening legal action against the commission -- they mentioned that several times on Saturday. Several, several times.)

Mayor Mike Rawlings showed up a little after the forum began and extended his thanks to Morgan and the rest of the commission. "Thank you to all of you around this horseshoe," he said, "for your time, effort, wisdom and cooperation with each other." He thanked everyone in the crowd for their participation -- every seat in the was filled at 2 p.m., with even more people standing in the back -- saying, "I think it'll be a good day."

"This is when the government works," he added. "When we put citizens first and political agendas second." Everybody liked that.

A few themes emerged from the public testimony. On the whole, the people who supported Bill Betzen's map came from the current Districts 7 and 8 and other parts of East Dallas. These are really massive, spread-out districts, and many people spoke about how difficult it was to even get to a district meeting now. Others, like Luke Davis from Lake Highlands, praised the map's "contiguity, compactness and simplicity." Most of the opposition was from District 13, and said they'd be more in favor of the map if Betzen moved its western boundary slightly -- the same thing that commissioner Elizabeth Jones has said at a number of meetings.

Plan 5, Brashear's plan, had most of its support from resident of the current Districts 4 and 5. Council member Vonciel Jones Hill also spoke in favor of it, saying that Brashear's plan "maintains the integrity of communities in South Oak Cliff." 

But council member Dwaine Caraway disagreed -- he got up to speak a few minutes later in opposition, and said that in his view, the map "completely destroys Oak Cliff." Caraway urged the commission, not for the first time, to "work on the bottom half of this map," saying that the southern districts still need a lot of work to make them viable. He then turned to face the audience and promised that when the map reaches the city council "we will tweak it to put Dallas together. ... We ain't gonna be playing political games." Everybody liked that too.

Council member Carolyn Davis also spoke against Plan 5, because, she said, "it puts council members against each other. ... In 2013, Dwayne and I would have to run against each other." (Even though we're sure she knows, just like everybody must at this point, that map proposals aren't supposed to take incumbency into account. But we'll say it again, just in case.)

She was also displeased that the map wouldn't support a fourth African-American seat, calling that "absolutely wrong," and adding, "We will lose what little power we have now." But every proposal has at least one less majority African-American district -- Betzen's and Brashear's both have three, while Garcia's has two three also; District 7 would be 49 percent African-American, which is considered a majority.

Although Plan 16 obviously enjoyed broad support, people from Districts 2 and 14 were especially well represented. The previous modifications the commissioners made to District 10, which encompasses Lake Highlands, were obviously popular too. By contrast, people who were unhappy with Plan 16 were often from District 5, specifically the Singing Hills area, which they said would be divided by this map. 

Speaking of Singing Hills, it's one of the neighborhoods that's come up repeatedly over the course of the public testimony this summer. So have Pleasant Grove, Buckner Terrace, Lake Highlands, Hamilton Park and a handful of other historic communities. As a relative newcomer to the city, it's become very clear through this process how much Dallas is a patchwork of small towns, ones that are well-established and those that are still emerging or re-building.

People also spoke movingly about areas that have changed or vanished. In Saturday's testimony we heard about Frogtown, Little Egypt, Little Mexico -- a host of places that vanished because boundary lines moved, demographics changed, political representation shifted. City redistricting might feel like a dry political exercise, but its consequences are visceral and real.

Dwayne Wooton, who spoke in opposition to Plan 16, talked about her grandmother, who was born in Dallas in 1876. She was from the State-Thomas area, which Wooton herself has been priced out of in subsequent years, she said.

"I have been displaced out of the community I grew up in," she told the commission and the crowd. "My ancestors built this area. Don't erase me."

Finally, we just want to point out a comment Betzen just left on that previous item, in which he thanked everyone for their support and said that Plan 16 "will still represent significant progress. It will eliminate 125 of the gerrymandered miles of City Council District boundary. I hope to be involved in this process again in 2021 to eliminate the other 40 gerrymandered miles and finish the job. Hopefully there will be many more people wanting to do the same thing then if we cannot get it done in 2011."

The final meeting will be tomorrow at 6 p.m. You can still submit your testimony up until Tuesday, by emailing or calling the commission. Seriously, the end is near. Until the city council gets this map, and then the whole thing kinda starts all over again. Sigh. We'll see you there.
My Voice Nation Help
38 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

The Redistricting Guidelines established by this Commission, http://www.dallascityhall.com/... , were the highpoint of the process.   The degree to which any plan followed those guidelines should be a good indication of quality.  The first section in the guidelines, Section A, listed the three areas mandated by state and federal law: 1) Population Equality, 2) Minority Representation, and 3) Contiguity and Compactness.  The second section in the Guidelines is described as "Other Guidelines which may be considered:" but it appears to be the area where the most energy was actually invested.  Those Section B Guidelines were: 1) Incumbents: ("The configuration of districts should be neutral as to incumbents.  The districts should not be configured for the purpose of either protecting or defeating an incumbent.")  and 2) Communities of Interest.

Remember that the Section B Guidelines were Guidelines which "may be considered." 

Was it Section A or Section B which should have ruled the redistricting process?  

Stan
Stan

I looked at all 3 maps and they are terrible.  The redistricting commission needs to start over.  Also, I don't think the Dallas Morning News has made much of an effort to print the proposed maps and so most people are unaware of what this group has done.  This reminds me of the comment about a committee trying to design a camel and creating an elephant.

I guess it will be up to the city council to solve this problem or maybe the Justice Dept.

Domingo Garcia
Domingo Garcia

Small correction- Plan 16 creates 3 not 2 majority African-American Districts.They are districts 4,7 and 8.In addition one minority majority district is also created.The majority of the people who attended were Anglos from Oak Lawn,Lake Highlands,and all of parts of Dallas,not exactly a typical LULAC crowd.The map was supported by people from all sections of Dallas,check the meeting replay on cable TV.The map got the most support because it keep the  core of most neigborhoods intact.West Dallas was united in 6,the Grove gets its own district.Lake Highlands stays united.In north Oak Cliff we have two districts 1 and 3 and the incumbents are not paired.Both Oak Cliff and Pleasant  Grove are to large for just one district since populations have to be around 85,000 for each.Most North Dallas districts stayed the same with minor changes.This plan makes the districts 20% more compact than our current map,a major improvement. I appreciate the comments both postive and negative,democracy works when  more people participate.Our goal is to make sure Dallas all citizens have a say in city goverment.

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

District 7 is 49 percent. My understanding was that 51 percent constituted a majority, although I do remember a bit of discussion about that at the last meeting before the forum. But I do see that 7 is annotated on the summary demographic report as a majority African-American district, so I'll append a correction above. My bad. 

El Rey
El Rey

Bring back Frogtown!

Shamrock
Shamrock

cPlan5 is the only workable plan. Plans 3 and 16 leave the Central Business and Entertainment District carved up its neighborhoods subjected to control outlying neighborhood associations. Hollis Brashear's plan proves that this is not necessary and we have the opportunity to take a great step forward. cPlan16 means (10) more years of a downtown divided. wPlan3 carves the Central Business and Entertainment District into (5) districts. Please rally your support behind cPlan5 and suggest tweaks to improve this plan

Omar Jimenez
Omar Jimenez

Downtown has always been divided ever since. We might have to look at that for 2021

Shamrock
Shamrock

*entry posted before i was done, sorry for the awkward sentence* 

community leader
community leader

why should we submit anything if no one is listening, our community has been out of place for 15years and now it looks as though we will remain out of place and not heard.

Omar Jimenez
Omar Jimenez

Trust me, my communitys has been out of place for 19 Years.

guest
guest

"Even though we're sure she knows, just like everybody must at this point, that map proposals aren't supposed to take incumbency into account. But we'll say it again, just in case."

At every redistricting meeting that I have seen Davis, she makes it very clear- and very loudly- that Bill's map is no good precisely because "it puts council members against each other. ... In 2013, Dwayne and I would have to run against each other."

So, no she either doesn't know what the word "neutral" means (as in redistricting is supposed to remain NEUTRAL to incumbents), or she knows that she will get away with spouting off like she does. Probably a little of both but a lot more of the former...

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

Some people just do not follow rules nor do they care about policy.Everyone knows the reason for independent commissions is to avoid incumbency issues.justice Department makes that crystal clear.Some Officials believe rules apply to everyone except them.Another thing wrong with Dallas reason FBI stays busy in this region.

Omar Jimenez
Omar Jimenez

Many people spoke out about how they wanted to be with this person, and wanted to change maps to be with someone who most of them would be running in 2013 for there last term. It's interesting that they are making a big deal for someone that would be elected for the last time.

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

Plan 16 keeps the city unmanageable.  Dist 6 is a mess.  Oak Lawn will continue to be controlled by East Dallas.  The southern districts stretch all over the place.   It is as bad as what we have now.   If Neil Emmons is the future -- God save us.

Omar Jimenez
Omar Jimenez

So then Which District would you wanna be in with what "hoods" I mean the good ones :)

cp
cp

My wonderful neighborhood will be split up with map 16. It also appears that our current city council representative will not lift a finger to try to move the line a scootch over to get all of us into one district (it's a little bitty old historic neighborhood). She says, "Oh well, we all had to make compromises". (psst, this is the same council rep who complained about map 5 because it would make her and Caraway have to run against each other in 2013). To me, that is all anyone needs to know about how screwed up this map really is, and how it exists solely to protect incumbents, punish people who didn't vote for incumbents and reward past political cronyism, all in the name of "fairness", "transparency" and "progress". It's a farce, yes I said it!

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I was prepared to hate Garcia's map ('cause Garcia seems to generally represent a lot of what's wrong with Dallas)-- but it actually does the best job of keeping Uptown and the Knox Henderson areas together with similar parts of Lakewood.

Betzen's map, in contrast, would have effectively "neutered" the larger Uptown area by cracking it into 2 - 3 different districts.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Huh?  All of Lakewood stays in 9 on map 16.  The other 2 combined the Greenville neighborhoods with Lakewood and the other lake neighborhoods.  That's part of what I like about 16.  It doesn't lump me in with those Lakewood people.

rc
rc

thank god there is support for 16b, it is the best map for southern Dallas.

Big_oj
Big_oj

I would have to disagree with you on District 8, it looks the same, and thats that one Funny Looking Area that lines along 20. We in Kleberg don't have anything in common with the Red Bird, Singing Hills Area, we spend more of our Tax Dollars in Pleasent Grove then in SW Dallas. That is where Bill's Plan would put us.

Cliff Dweller
Cliff Dweller

Your commissioner, Mary Hasan stated repeatedly that you wished to remain in Distrcit 8.  Was that not true?

Big_oj
Big_oj

Nope, I wanted to be with the Pleasant Grove District. And, that What I told the commissioners Saturday, 2 weeks ago, at the meetings, and Bill Bezten. He actually had us with the PG District since he started drawning his maps.  

Montemalone
Montemalone

It's interesting that Greenway Park is lumped in with West Dallas. I would have thought that little part would go with Preston Hollow.

Livable Perspective
Livable Perspective

It's likely that there was too high of a populations in District 13 and they had to cut somewhere. District 6 probably had the most room to breathe so they shifted Greenway Park to District 6.

LaceyB
LaceyB

The kid in Wilonsky's house sat through the meeting? That takes discipline.

This stuff is interesting, but, since Uptown doesn't get a ton of play here--all I know is our rent will go up ridiculously & it gets strangely louder every year--I would have a hard time sitting thru the meeting, myself.

RTGolden
RTGolden

It was probably preferable to sitting at home, painfully watching Papa Wilonsky hunt and peck his way through yet another story about the tunnels.....

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Hey! I also took him to the JWP rally, which was boring, though he did pick up a nice Willie Mays bio at the bookstore. We also had a drink at the Amsterdam (well, he had ginger ale; I, a wonderful Estrella Damma) and browsed Switching Gears. He's already been down into the tunnels. Thought they were terrible.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

For what it's worth, my 8-year-old son, who took the photo, thought Plan 3 was much better than 16. "It makes more sense," he said after I explained to him the process of puzzle-piecing together the districts. Out of the mouth of babes.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I still don't understand how Plan 3 works in terms of incumbents. Jasso and Griggs would both live in the new District 1 and there would be no councilmember for District 3. How does that work, and why would a councilmember ever write him or herself out of his/her own district?

Cliff Dweller
Cliff Dweller

That's precisely the point.  Plan 16 with its weird shapes was drawn specifically to protect incumbents (with the exception of Vonciel Hill, whom Dwaine has decided must go). 

Bill Betzen
Bill Betzen

Excellent question! A politician who is more concerned about Dallas than their own personal political position as a council representative may also realize that an obvious dedication to the overall health of Dallas, by supporting compact districts, is more valuable than short-sited self interest. Voters will see that dedication.  Voters may reward it with support for that politician in running for an even more powerful position.  

A compact district facilitates the most efficient democratic proceedures.  While many things are hidden by the "communities of interest" smoke screen too often used in redistricting, we have an obligation to seek out the real motivation behind any potential smoke screen.  See one opinion at http://dallasredistricting2011...

Finally, outside an authentic interest in better things for Dallas, why would anyone want to run for City Council?  Bribe income for their votes?  Power?  A $37,000 annual income?  If an interest in the welfare of Dallas is the most comon motivation, why is this question an issue?  Such sacrifice should be normal. 

The guidelines given by the Redistricting Commission were the most powerfully positive factor in this redistricting process.  They mandated neutrality as to incumbents home addresses. 

Cliff Dweller
Cliff Dweller

On the contrary, I believe Delia Jasso would have a very tough time beating Scott Griggs in either of the versions where they are paired.   That's why plan 16 carefully draws the Kessler neighborhoods out of District 1.  

Anonymous
Anonymous

Personally, I believe that Scott Griggs has an authentic interest in better things for Dallas, and quite frankly, there's not a chance in hell that he will beat a Hispanic candidate in your District 1 regardless of what type of promise he might show. I know you can't draw lines for the next 10 years based on where good candidates live today, but after finally getting rid of Dave Neumann for a fantastic candidate, I can't imagine putting my support behind a map that takes him out of the picture. Delia Jasso is very nice, but she's a machine politician. 

Your idea about how "pure" politicians should be is naive beyond the point of absurdity. Griggs campaigned to become a thorn in the side of gas drillers who would attempt to drill in neighborhoods with absolutely no oversight. How does he serve the people who elected him by re-drawing the lines and replacing himself with someone whose vote will be bought by industry? Also, there is absolutely no reason to believe that politicians in compact districts won't just be bought off by special interests the way that many are now. 

topham
topham

Excellent report and observations. We often don't realize it (and out-of-towners definitely don't), but just as much as any other large city, Dallas is a city of neighborhoods, each with a distinctive character. It's not just North Dallas, West Dallas, Oak Cliff, Cedar Springs, and Lakewood. To use a word that makes me cringe, it's a lot more granular than that.

Bob
Bob

I seem to recall Warren Leslie said the same thing almost 50 years ago. This is part of the reason why I question the overspending in any one single neighborhood. Hello downtown & Trinity.

Depressed progressive
Depressed progressive

The Saturday crowd that supported cPlan16 is really just a testament to Domingo's ability to rally the LULAC crowd and says little about actual community wide support for any of the maps. 

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

That's as false as false can be.  I'm glad to say that 16 had both Hispanic and black supporters, but the most populous group was the District 2 and 14 crowd as Anna mentioned.  We come in a lot a colors, but the more important issue is that we understand that visual compactness on a map needs to be secondary to preserving communities of interest.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...