February 13, 2009
More on the city council redistricting lawsuit

Here's today's version of the story, which adds a little more detail to yesterday's.

Population consultants and planning officials have said that redistricting now would require the city to rely on 2000 census data outlining population figures in voting precincts. Although the city has done that before, officials said, updated population figures showed those efforts to have been flawed.

Redistricting now, he said, could lead the city to violate the Voting Rights Act by potentially undercounting minorities through the use of outdated census data.

"I support the Voting Rights Act," [Mayor Bill] White said. "We think the most important step to make sure there is fair representation of all citizens is to have maximum participation in the 2010 census."

{Plaintiffs Vidal] Martinez and [Carroll] Robinson said the city has several options for getting the most accurate population information, including using data from the census and demographic specialists.

"It's a sad day when it takes a group of private lawyers to have to ask the Justice Department and the courts to do what the city is legally and morally obligated to do," Robinson said.

He and Martinez said they felt goaded into action as the council prepared to vote next week on a measure that ostensibly declares the population for voting purposes to be around 1.95 million, and the council districts to be evenly divided according to population.

That's a "comical farce," Martinez said.

Council members have admitted as much during open meetings, questioning whether their votes on the matter would ratify a misleading stance.

[Annise] Parker, the city controller, is a candidate for mayor and has declared her support for redistricting now. She said Thursday that the city has staked out an "inconsistent" position on its population.

In budget-related decisions, she said, the council already has cast votes asserting a higher population, and she has used a 2.2 million population figure in bond-related documents, as well.

I'm going to guess that the other candidates for Mayor will share Parker's position on this, if for no better reason than I'm sure they'd all prefer to have this matter dealt with, or at least largely out of their hands, before taking office. Who wouldn't want to avoid dealing with it, especially right out of the gate?

As I've said before, given that we put this off till now I think it's reasonable to wait till the 2010 Census numbers are in before tackling this task. But given that we shouldn't have put this off in the first place, I also think it's reasonable to force the issue now. My main concern right now is the disposition of the District H special election. I don't want it to be delayed by this lawsuit. I have no idea what a timeline is likely to be for any court decisions that would affect it, however. I've got a copy of the lawsuit here (rich-text format document, thanks to Miya for the link). Can any lawyers out there give me an opinion as to how this may play out? I'm not looking for a guess on how it will be decided, just on how long you think it might take to get to some kind of resolution, and whether or not the May and/or November elections are in doubt. Thanks.

UPDATE: On a tangential note, I just got an email announcing Lupe Garcia's official entry into the District H race. His press release is beneath the fold.

Guadalupe "Lupe" Garcia has formally announced his candidacy for the City Council vacancy caused by Adrian Garcia's election as sheriff that will be held on May 9th.

Lupe Garcia has been a good neighbor to District H nearly all is life. Garcia was raised in the Heights, has been a small businessman in District H for over 12 years, and has resided in Lindale Park with his family since 1996.

"As a child growing in the Heights, I have seen the community undergo a great transformation - I believe District H really has turned into one of the most diverse parts of our great city," stated Garcia. "Our country and city is faced with tough economic times and when times are tough people get desperate - crime is on the rise and the people in District H are very concerned," Garcia said, "We need to improve public safety and our neighborhoods through community involvement and efficient use of resources."

"I was honored to be asked by friends and family to run for the vacated spot on City Council," stated Garcia, "I was hesitant at first because I am NOT a politician but I have been encouraged by so many people from District H who feel that I can be their voice that I really feel that we can win this special election - I want to thank everyone for their support!!"

Garcia helped his family put his younger brother, Oscar Garcia, 1998 class valedictorian for University of Houston Downtown, through college and is known for being a good neighbor and a person who can be counted on in times of trouble. Garcia and his wife have cared for troubled youth in the district and taken them in off the streets during hard times.

Please contact the campaign at [email protected] or visit our homepage www.GarciaforCityCouncil.com to sign-up to volunteer and receive campaign updates, and, of course, make a financial contribution.

The District H Special Election to fill Sheriff Adrian Garcia's vacated seat is set for May 9, 2009.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 13, 2009 to Local politics
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