So, I Gave My Two Cents at the Redistricting Hearing

I’m sure Dr. Rey Guerra will be providing a comprehensive update of the final redistricting hearing for DosCentavos (and SomosTejanos) as he has done previously, but after receiving a couple of texts inviting me to attend the hearing at the Sosa Community Center on Wirt, I figured I would even volunteer to give my three-minute, completely unprepared speech. So, I did.

According to the principles set forth by the Harris County Commissioner’s Court for the redraw, they are interested in meeting the Voting Rights Act, but also not disrupting things, including constituent services. But as redistricting goes, I believe the VRA should take precedence since most of the legal fights would come from that aspect of things.

Still, I mentioned that with the County’s proposal, Kingwood and Atascocita would be split, causing a change in services which some may not enjoy. But from a representation stanpoint, tt would even include one of Kingwood-proper’s swankier precincts (760). So, my question is: If they are attempting to keep a “Hispanic majority” district, why would anyone attempt to add two very white, upper middle class precincts to such a commissioner’s precinct? Certainly there is dilution as these two precincts with relatively high turn-out would negatively affect the choice of the more lower propensity voting Hispanic precincts. It’s not a stretch to say that folks in Kingwood wouldn’t care much for the needs of folks inside the loop–politically and service-wise. That just comes naturally, like Kingwood’s District E battle to get rid of Clear Lake, which always fails.

Gene Locke and Professor Murray, who are the chief consultants on the redraw attempted to “sell” us the fact that the proposal for Precinct 4–the precinct in which I reside–calls for the precinct to become a Hispanic “influence” precinct. Their map has the Hispanic population at around 30% for Precinct 4.

Let me tell you, I honestly do appreciate that and I told them as much. As a 10-year resident of Kingwood, we have seen Hispanic growth in the area. And it is particularly evident in Atascocita, which then provides some sense as to why that area MIGHT be included in Precinct 2. But those two precincts north of the river in Kingwood-proper?

What I stated was that, while I appreciate the “influence” Hispanics may have in a new Precinct 4, it would come at the cost of what was a Hispanic opportunity commissioner’s seat. While Hispanics would still be a majority in Precinct 2, citizen voting age population shows that the opportunity would fade, especially if you add some high-propensity voting, non-Latino majority precincts to the seat, as the proposed map does.

Dr. Rey Guerra and Robert Jara presented an alternative map which would ensure a Latino opportunity for the next decade. Meanwhile, population diffusion around the county would keep Hispanic populations at a level still able to influence elections in those other commissioner’s seats. And as I stated, Hispanic political influence is going to happen as the population spreads; and, after the next Census, there will be a need to address “influence” in more than one precinct. But right now, during this current process, we should be committed to improving representation–ensuring the opportunity for a historical minority group to elect whom they choose.

Redistricting, like most things, is a very political game. Some in the audience even mentioned the fact that the proposed map is all about protecting incumbents, rather than offering increased opportunities. So, it will take some political will to do what is right. Either that or a costly legal process that the county can ill-afford.

So, now, it’s back in the County’s hands to make changes, if they have the political will, based on these hearings. We’ll keep our attention on the process.

Thanks to the folks at Latinos:  Save our Seat for all of their efforts and to the Houston Coalition.

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