ReDrawing Houston 2011

The Mayor’s first map in the Houston re-draw has been released and I must say that I am not surprised. The map tells us something I said upon my return to blogging a few weeks ago after the Census was unveiled–Latinos are everywhere!

Greg Wythe provided us some live-blogging of the conversation at City Hall today. It seems a few folks aren’t too happy based on conversations on the Twitter and at least one press release, while others are ecstatic with the proposed District J bounderies.

One thing is for sure; based on the numbers, there are four Latino-majority population districts, with the original H and I being joined by A and F. Even if you count for Voting Age Population (VAP), A, F, H, and I are over 50% Hispanic. And B, C, E, and K are 30% to almost 40% in Hispanic VAP.  Again, Latinos are everywhere and we aren’t concentrated in a couple of neighborhoods anymore–even in the electoral sense. And all that sounds great, but currently, that may not amount to CITIZEN voting age population (CVAP) for those districts in which we see a burgeoning Hispanic population. And that is where some of the disappointment may lie.

So, there will be questions like, “where’s the new Latino district?” and others challenging the proposed “J” which has almost 1/4 Latino VAP, but not drawn to be a more Hispanic district, as expected by some. I continue to ask if another Hispanic district with enough citizens of voting age can be drawn without it looking like some weird maze. “Maybe,” is what I hear.

But I go back to the fact that I tend to be enjoying more–Latinos are everywhere! And if you’re concerned about CVAP, then this article tells us that Houston gained more in child population than any other metro area, so that means more future voters–everywhere!

In other words, I see an opportunity in all of this for a combination of representation and power-sharing, if I can be so bold as to use the latter term. District F serves as a prime opportunity to maximize voting power between the Asian-American and Latino communities, and others who may want to join. Other districts which are predominantly African American are seeing an increase in Hispanic population, so there is an opportunity there, as well. Obviously, District A is one of those districts in which much can be done, if there is a real commitment.

The bottom line is that it is fast becoming a challenge for any one group to hold on to absolute power, or at least have what some would call representation, in a district, let alone citywide. As I’ve always said, a majority in population does  not amount to power unless you are able to utilize the vast majority of that population to gain power. And power does not necessarily mean just another brown face.

Latinos are not there, yet, (some argue we don’t even try given our voter turnout numbers) and as long as we have elected officials content with adequate turnout to ensure their own re-elections, then Latinos will not get far at all and we will continue being a blip in future historic political victories, instead of a force.

Obviously, the debate has just begun, and there will probably be some tweaking to the map, but for all intents and purposes, I think it’s a good start and brings to light some realities that Latinos must face–we’re everywhere! At the very least, it provides an opportunity for discussion.  Obviously, if Latinos want representation (or influence) in at least a couple more of these districts, well, we need to vote. We certainly cannot get squeamish about the work that must be done to put a couple more brown faces on the horseshoe at city hall.

My camarada Kuff has his view on things.

At least regarding the direction of this discussion, we can certainly be civil and not play the victim.

7 responses to “ReDrawing Houston 2011

  1. Bro,
    You’ve got to come harder than this. The proposed map is ridiculous and unacceptable. Latinos are almost 45% of the population and, in accordance w/ the Voting Rights Act, we should have something on the order of 45% of the districts. The proposed COH plan will leave Latinos w/ barely 2 of 11 districts (I say barely because Ed Gonzalez’s district could swing non-Latino very easily). 2 of 11 districts is less than 20%, absolutely unacceptable. The anglo population gets another district when they have seen a population decrease? This is not a good start. We should be fighting for 4-5 total Latino districts.

    • If we were only dealing with population, I’d be right there with you. But it’s not that easy when we need Citizen Voting Age Population to build a district that a Latino/a has an opportunity to win. Some of the mapping experts I’ve spoken with say 1 more would be a challenge to draw because of where Latinos have moved.

      If you look at the Census map for Ethnic Distribution (view more maps button), and hone in on Harris County and Houston, you’ll see where the population has moved. Latinos need to live in a compact area, but we’re not as compact anymore.

      Can another one be drawn? If you look at my next blog post above this one, I say yes. And I’m a little stronger there. I live in an area that has had a big increase of Latino population, but given the area, we’ll never be placed into a “Latino” district.

      Thanks for your comment. I look forward to seeing alternative maps to see exactly where this new district can be drawn, without taking away from the other two districts.

  2. Well written Stace. It’s easy for us to criticize, but it’s harder when you’re the one having to create the first draft.

    The challenge is not just getting folks to vote, but finding population concentrations for districts. When we redrew the congressional districts in 1995 I learned about these challenges.

    Thanks for a fair-minded analysis of the administration’s proposal.

    Many of us are still waiting for the critics to suggest something better.

    • Thanks, Burton. I think there may be something better and that the population isn’t as diffused as some might think. Even so, the challenge is still finding a big enough citizen voting age population within that concentration to build a district that could provide an opportunity to elect a Hispanic council member.

      I would hope that there were various attempts by the City to find a solution since this has been lobbied for at least the last four years in the run-up to the census. Even so, we have a responsibility to push forth alternatives.

      Living in a suburban council district that has its own growing Hispanic population that would not make it into a “Hispanic” district leaves me feeling a little left out (and am treated that way by some–not that it has any effect ha ha), but our goal of equal representation must include a commitment to civic engagement. And as the demographics change, we must seek out those opportunities to work and play well with others. And that’s an even tougher task.

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