Dwaine Caraway Speaks at Longest Redistricting Commission Meeting Ever & Other Highlights
The end is near ... sort of. The city's Redistricting Commission is inching towards putting together a city map it can forward on to the city council, and everyone -- the public and commissioners alike -- is trying to get in a parting shot before then. Last night's meeting was a marathon of speeches, metaphors (map shapes were variously compared to a sphinx's head,
After reviewing partial plan testimony from commissioner Domingo Garcia and looking at commissioner Hollis Brashear's proposed map on Tuesday, the Redistricting Commission was supposed to meet last night, hear the last batch of submissions from commissioners, review all 15 plans still on the table, then discuss which ones to modify and move forward. That didn't happen, despite nearly four hours up in room 6ES. (Four! Hours! During which I used up an entire notepad and a rather large package of peanut butter crackers. Redistricting is hell on your dinner plans. Anyway.)
After the jump, we've got a few highlights from a very long night.
Billy Ratcliff Finally Presented His Dwaine Caraway-Backed Plan. The commission heard first from commissioner Billy Ratcliff, who presented cPlan04, the controversial (according to Sandra Crenshaw) map he's submitting on behalf of former Mayor Dwaine Caraway. The plan keeps Buckner Terrace intact in District 5 (a point of concern throughout the redistricting process), and has seven total minority districts, four Hispanic and three African-American.
The commission on the whole didn't seem very happy with the plan: Commissioner Daniel "Corky" Sherman criticized the changes Ratcliff had made to Oak Cliff in order to preserve Pleasant Grove, and commissioner Elizabeth Jones told him, "A lot of our key neighborhoods have been chopped off" in District 13. Even chair Ruth Morgan chimed in, describing the shape of District 14 as "a noose." "What's the rationale for having that kind of a configuration?" she asked.
The Phrase "Unity Map" Made Its Appearance, Just Like We Predicted. Morgan got a little stern with the next group of presenters -- commissioners Domingo Garcia, Brooks Love and Ratcliff, who presented cPlan16, or what they're referring to as a "Unity Map." "This plan is cPlan16," she said firmly. "It should not be referred to by a nickname."
"Commissioner Garcia prefers to call it the Unity Plan," replied commissioner Garcia. He went on to explain that the plan, whatever you want to call it, has five majority Latino, two African-American and two "coalition" districts.
Commissioner Hollis Brashear wasn't pleased that African-American communities would lose a district. "I maintain there is regression here," he said, adding, "I'm just disappointed."
There was more displeasure from the other commissioners: Jones wasn't happy with the changes made to District 13, and commissioner Donna Halstead was upset that Garcia hadn't solicited her input. "It's a shame you didn't both to respond to my requests to talk to you," she said. That set off a brief, highly awkward bout of bickering between the two during which Halstead accused Garcia of basing his districts "primarily on race," a charge Garcia angrily denied. "Don't put words in my mouth," he told her.
Chair Morgan Had To Tell Everybody To Behave Themselves. Again. The audience wasn't much better behaved than the commissioners. For much of the evening, the room was unusually packed and extremely chatty. There was a lot of debating, commiserating, hand-shaking, brow-furrowing and chair-hopping, to the point where there was practically a parallel meeting going on. Morgan called the audience to order twice during the "Unity Plan" presentation, and at one point threatened to remove everyone who was being "distracting" from the room.
Randall Bryant Lectured the Commission On Being "Biased, Slanderous." Former plan presenter Randall Bryant came back to speak in support of cPlan16. If you don't recall, he's the college student (and, as an Unfair Park commenter pointed out, Kathy Nealy's grandson) who Jones grilled on his educational background and political ties, offending commissioner Mary Hasan, who maintained no other submitter had been made to answer those types of questions.
Last night, Bryant called the commission's questions to him "dogmatic, biased, slanderous, and falsified," adding, "I am not, nor have I ever been, a political consultant. Who would hire a 24-year-old to consult?" He noted that cPlan16 is one of just two plans that would allow African-American council members to retain four seats. "The commission shouldn't consider anything less," he said, before taking his seat to laughter and applause from some commissioners and much of the audience.
Dwaine Caraway Finally Speaks! The former mayor, resplendent in a bright red T-shirt with a big yellow school bus on it, also spoke on cPlan16 (and a whole bunch of other things). As you see in the video above, he first thanked all of the commissioners for their time and service. "You're doing a great job," he told them, adding that when a proposal reaches the council level, "we'll be doing the same thing" all over again. Can't wait.
But he also wanted to lecture the commission on the virtues of compromise and ceding ground. "I took a pretty tough step three years ago," he said, by giving up the Lake Highlands area to represent Buckner Terrace. "I do a great job," he said. "They vote for me." He told the commission that everyone would have to "collectively come together" to avoid stalemate.
Caraway also reiterated the importance of creating better districts in the south. "We in the southern sector for the last 10 to 20 years have endured neighborhoods broken up, communities of interest not kept together," he said, "while North Dallas was always contiguous, fits like a glove." He criticized cPlan16's District 5, saying, "We know this is not a fair representation."
Caraway told the commission that his doors were always open. "We want to make it right," he said, adding, "But frankly, we might lose a few friends. But I'd rather lose a few friends and keep a community together." When he finished speaking, the room emptied almost completely.
"You've been very good and faithful in your attendance," Morgan replied with what appeared to be total sincerity.
With that, the night was abruptly over, and the commission and the five or so remaining audience members stumbled blearily towards the elevator. Next time: some kind of resolution? Maybe?!--Session>