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One Heights, two districts

As we head into the last of the public meetings on City Council redistricting, we are reminded that you can’t always get what you want from the process.

A proposed redistricting map that separates historic neighborhoods in the Houston Heights into two City Council districts is raising concerns that the voice of a long-standing “community of interest” will be diluted at City Hall.

“At the end of the day, Woodland Heights would like to maintain its ties and community of interest with the historic Heights. Whether that’s in Council District H or the new District J is less important right now,” said Gabe Vick, a resident of the neighborhood, which is among the city’s oldest.

Woodland Heights’ western boundary is Studewood, which is shown as the new dividing line between District H and a new District J that takes in the Greater Heights area under the redistricting plan unveiled by Mayor Annise Parker’s administration last week. The line divides the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood, a coalition of homeowner groups that has asked to stay intact under one council district as the process advances.

The neighborhoods are aligned on issues like parks and historic preservation and participate together in events like White Linen Nights, Lights in the Heights and development of local bike trails, Vick pointed out.

“At this point, there are a lot of different issues and concerns among the residents of Woodland Heights. I encourage them to actively participate in the public hearings and voice those,” he said.

[…]

Bill Baldwin, president of the Houston Heights Association, believes some modifications can be made to preserve the historic neighborhoods in one district.

“The new District J goes all the way to Southhampton and South Braeswood. I think the Heights as a neighborhood is diminished somewhat by such a large and vast district, so I do think we have some concerns. I’d like to see some adjustments made, and I think they can be made,” Baldwin said.

I don’t see how joining the Heights with Southhampton and South Braeswood “diminishes” it. One could easily argue that those neighborhoods are a better fit for the Heights than its current district mates. It’s unfortunate that the Woodland Heights will likely be separated from the rest of the Heights in the new map, but given the demographic changes in the area, it’s not surprising that most of the Heights was taken out of District H. There are competing priorities, and something has to give. As I said before, my neighborhood is never going to be ignored. We’ll do just fine wherever we wind up.

Today is your last chance to tell City Council what you think about the redistricting proposals. The hearings will be at 9 AM and at 7 PM in Council’s chambers at City Hall. I presume we’ll see an alternate plan or two being proffered, and we’ll see how well they get received. Be there and have your say while you still can. Marty Hajovsky has more.

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2 Comments

  1. Bob Derr says:

    I didn’t think splitting neighborhoods like this was legal?!

  2. Bob,

    No, there’s nothing illegal or even particularly untoward about splitting neighborhoods. Legally, you must maintain precinct boundaries, not retrogress minority voting strength, and have roughly equal population in all districts. Everything else is a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.