"We Shouldn't Be Afraid of That Passion": A Chat With Mayor Rawlings About Redistricting

Categories: City Hall
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The mayor presiding over the (very, very, very, very long) redistricting debate two weeks ago
Had a brief chat with Mayor Mike Rawlings last night concerning what appears to be the never-ending process of redistricting, about which the city council will get an earful this morning from Latino leaders who insist they're not properly represented on the map the council approved to send to the Department of Justice two weeks ago. Rawlings acknowledges: He's had many conversations about many folks since that vote was taken -- "many Hispanic leaders, many African-American leaders, Anglos as well" -- all in the hope that somewhere, somehow they could come to the compromise that so far has yet to emerge in the argument over how to divvy up districts in a city where 42 percent of the population is Hispanic and African-American leaders demand four "winnable" districts.

"I was very disappointed in the leaders of all communities not compromising early in this process, and they are still not compromising," Rawlings says. "What makes great government is compromise, and I didn't hear it from the Latinos when the African-Americans were trying to rustle through this, and I am pushing for the African-Americans to it now with Latino leaders. I am hopeful. I am working on it. It's not over till the DOJ stamps 'approved.' It really is a matter of people sitting down and wanting to work with one another."

On the other side, a brief Q&A with the mayor, who insists that despite all the hand-wringing and hand-holding the process worked as it should -- and quietly made history, without anyone even noticing.

What's your assessment of how this redistricting process worked -- or, at time, didn't work?

First of all, I think there are two important facts. For the first time in Dallas's history, we have eight winnable minority districts. OK? There is a criticism day in and day out that this is an Anglo-run city, and we have a majority of minority districts that are very winnable. Nobody's pointed to that. So I feel very good about that.

The second thing I feel good about is: All this has been very, very transparent. I purposefully tried to get this all aboveboard so everyone sees what's happening. There's no question there are discussions taking place behind the scenes. I've had conversations with Latinos and blacks and have asked them to have lunch together. But anything substantive has to be pushed up, and I am making sure anything with two or three people talking, we're going to talk about it in a very public fashion. That's difficult for people to deal with, but that's the truth.

I appreciate the work the Redistricting Commission did. Eighty-five, 90 percent of their map was endorsed [by the council]. We worked on that other 15 percent. And that's OK. You can endorse the lions' share of something and deal with the rest.

Two weeks ago the council put on quite the display. What's your take on how that went down?

I didn't have any point of reference. I talked to people there 10, 20 years ago, and they said the civility is much better. These things are all relative. I am proud of the civility the city council did their work in. Hey, look, when someone's passionate about something, they can be passionate. If it's Latinos or Occupy Dallas, whatever it is, there's no problem with that. We shouldn't be afraid of that passion. We should ask for civility.

The map hasn't yet gone to the Department of Justice, but will within two weeks. Obviously the one approved two weeks ago can't be changed between now and then, but there could be tweaks after it goes in front of the feds. Do you think the map we wind up with will be different than the one that passed council with a 9-6 vote?

I can't predict. You're asking me to be an odds-maker, and I would say the odds are the DOJ is going to ... This is the odds-on favorite to be approved vis-à-vis the other maps out there. We were trying to be responsive to Ms. Jasso and to Mr Griggs when they pointed out what was wrong with the African-American substitute motion. Their issue was North Oak Cliff not being united, we united those neighborhoods, and now the issue is you've got two city council people potentially living in the same district. We cannot worry about where people live. We have to do right by the community as a whole. We have to be as contiguous as possible and keep neighborhoods of like interests together. I am not saying this map is perfect. No map is ever perfect.

Several friends of mine who were never particularly political became deeply engaged in redistricting, showing up to several public hearings and at least one City Hall on a Saturday afternoon. All say the same thing now: They felt as though they wasted their time -- that the council ultimately voted to protect some incumbents and the expense of really unifying some of those "neighborhoods of like interests" that remain separated. They still don't feel like they're in the right place ...

The question is: Why? Is it income? The way they keep their yards? I've heard this too, and it gets real vague, and it gets around personalities. It's either about that or race. And to me, I think we as a city must be integrated at a council level, at a neighborhood level.

Can you explain why District 1 [currently Jasso's district] is one Domingo Garcia and the Latino Redistricting Task Force don't count as a "winnable" district for Latinos? Domingo tried telling Anna what he was talking about, but ...

The core issue is the Latino community has been a major growth element in tis city, and it's one of the reasons Dallas will continue to be very successful. The question on the table is: How do we get their voice around the table and govern the city in the right way? That's tricky.

District 1 is a winnable Latino district, with 75 percent of the population and 54 percent of the population bearing Spanish surnames. I think if the Latinos had the right candidate, it's very winnable. I voted for that in good faith knowing we have a lot of good Latino candidates. I'm not the voter. They have to make the decision on their own, and folks in North Oak Cliff don't say, "I'm voting for a white name." That's not the case.

I am not trying to be the person who is making the decisions. I was trying to coalesce the wisdom of the commission and the council. Anything we had, there would have been an intelligent minority on the opposite side. But this is where the council ended up. I'll tell ya: In some ways it's been one of the most interesting things I've done in my life. I see people who've thought a lot about this. It's a three-dimensional game of chess being played. But ultimately, I want the politics to be separated from the facts.
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George
George

The map is a joke. The process was transparent only until the final hours when all maps that had been presented to the public for debate were scrapped for the Rawlings monster map. Oak Cliff has been torn apart after all but being promised the well liked "combination map" that so many O.C. residents and council people supported.Am I the only person who thinks we should be focusing on quality candidates rather than black, white and Hispanic council members? In a country where a black Democratic president could well face a black Republican challenger, am I really to believe that white voters are incapable of supporting a qualified black or Hispanic candidate? Is it true that black voters will never support a qualified white candidate? The problem is not too few black or Hispanic representatives. The problem is too few good representatives. It is a problem that does not look like it will be solved anytime soon.

heart and soul
heart and soul

What a punk ass liar this guy turned out to be. Transparent? NO WAY. Mayor you did a backroom deal to save your supporters on the council.

dfwtexex
dfwtexex

Shocking that he can't understand the concept of a "community of interest".  Is he kidding?  It's not difficult to understand and it has to do with the relationship of the neighbors to each other and to the major "assets" of the neighborhood.  For instance, Kiest Park has long been protected and enhanced by its relationship to its neighbors across the street in Kiestwood.   The new plan puts Kiest Park in s separate district than Kiestwood and it does the same to the Wynnwood neighborhoods.  It makes no sense, unless you believe that it is a deliberate attempt to weaken the political influence of North Oak Cliff and displace Scott Griggs in order to leave District 3 in the hands of a roll-over, Mayor friendly, do what North Dallas says, drill baby drill, city council person.

But, however bad the map may look, the worst part is how it was drawn: in a backroom, with only the mayor and a couple of people he invited in.  Others who asked to participate were excluded.  When campaigning, Rawlings spoke of the importance of transparency, a concept he activley and agrressively ignored in this process. 

bbetzen
bbetzen

The battle is NOT between the latinos and blacks. 

It is between all minorities united fighting with the white community to secure their fair share of city council seats.  While it is true that for "the first time in Dallas's history, we have eight winnable minority districts" that is little consolation when there should be, from a redistricting perspective, 10 winnable minority districts!  That would be 4 black and 6 latino.   Yes, it is correct that there will probably only be 5 latino candidates who win due to those unable to vote due to age or citizenship, but the redistricting should produce 5 strong majority latino districts combined with a coalition district wherein latinos are in the majority.  There should also be 3 strong black districts, strong enough to remain black majority thoughout the next decade, as well as one coalition district wherein blacks are the majority. 

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

You finally said something that I can agree with; "The battle is NOT between the latinos and blacks."  There should be 4 black districts whether you think we can win them or not.  It is left up to us whether we ge out the votes.  Districts are not drawn to ensure that we win but to give us the opportunity to win.  As you have seen in the past with Larry Duncan, sometimes we  feel that the best candidate is not the black candidate.  I was told a long time ago that people of your color are not always of your kind and I have found this to be very true.  You keep trying to shove your map down our throat but we don't want it. 

Fedilicious
Fedilicious

"The question is: Why? Is it income? The way the keep their yards? I've heard this too, and it gets real vague, and it gets around personalities. It's either about that or race. And to me, I think we as a city must be integrated at a council level, at a neighborhood level."

Yes, if we had integration, there wouldnt be black neighborhoods, hispanic neighborhoods and white neighborhoods. Just the result of racist leaders imposing extreme segregation, and here we are! What now???

Highway383
Highway383

Mayor Mike - You will end your political career if you go down the "income argument" road. Its a road that will lead you into a 100 mph crash into a 100 foot dead end wall. I hope your smarter than that, but guess will have to wait and see. 

elbueno
elbueno

He sees it one way when Latinos themselves see it another. 

There is nothing wrong with having 4 black-majority districts, but there is something wrong when you are manipulating the map in their favor, simply because they helped you get elected.Mike is a smart and politically saavy bastard if there ever was one.

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

Mike saw what you failed to realized that the DOJ was going to reject the map because of retrogression.  You feel that the map is being manipuated for blacks but you don't seem to have a problem with 6 councilmembers being white when they are 29% of the population.  It appears you need a wake up call.  Judging from your comments, it's okay for whites to be over represented but it is not okay for black to get their fair share.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Frankly, I dont care about redistricting.  The arguments presented for or against any particular map do more to increase divisions among the population than to increase a sense of community.  You know how you solve the problem? 15 At Large council members, with no district representatives.  Wa-La, no need for a map.  If whites are only 29% of the population ( a suspect statistic, to say the least), they shouldn't be able to garner any significant advantage on the council.As for that 29%, that is clearly a misleading stat based on an inappropriate census question.  Most whites more than likely ignored or skipped the question.  I know I did.  Why is it that whites (not a race, but a color) are the only category that had a question aimed at deciphering what they were NOT?  Stupid question, not worthy of answering.  I answered white because that is the easiest for me to answer.  I qualify to answer native american, I choose not to.  Why isn't there a question asking me if I'm white, of native american descent?I don't know the answer to those questions, but I do know that any survey can be worded to extract specifically desired results.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

If Mayor Mike wants the politics separated from the facts.......Hill demanding that the VA Hospital be drawn into a newly shaped District 3(eliminating either Jasso or Griggs in 2013) so that she can have a 'kingdom' is pure politics. I really like you Mayor Mike but you need to keep this even playing field and currently it is not.

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

I agree with you about VA Hospital being drawn into District 3 but I don't believe Hill will have a kingdom.  Her kingdom died when they move her into our district. 

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