Round and round we go with City Council redistricting

Vidal Martinez made the case in yesterday’s Chron for tackling the task of City Council redistricting in time for the 2009 elections, on the grounds that this is the deal the city agreed to with the Justice Department back in 1979. Marc Campos, who suspects that the city’s reluctance to do so has everything to do with the messiness of redistricting, agrees with him. Greg gets into just how messy this is likely to be. And the Chron, in an unsigned editorial, criticizes the city for not taking action back in 2006, but argues that it would be best to aim for 2011 by starting to work on it now, to ensure we get the best result possible.

I have to say, I think the Chron’s position is pretty persuasive. They note that a whole lot of candidates have been lining up to run for office this year; to start a redistricting process now would be very disruptive to them. If that were the only consideration, you could very easily argue that the needs of the voters as a whole outweigh that. But a new set of Council districts for November could effectively moot the special election for District H that’s set for three months from now. It’s not out of the question that the winner of the May race could find him or herself living outside the district in a new map. Since everyone with an opinion on this subject is concerned about this district – my district – and its current lack of a voice on Council, I think we ought to be sensitive to such a possibility.

While I think Martinez is right to stress that a deal is a deal, he kind of loses me here:

The next census will not be completed until at least 2011, and possibly longer if history repeats itself as to the dissemination of the data compiled.

If the next census isn’t ready by 2011, we’ll have bigger problems than just the disposition of Houston City Council. The Lege wouldn’t be able to do its constitutional duty to redraw Congressional lines, which will include three or four new seats including one for Houston, under this scenario. There’s a bit more time for that process to run its course, since the effective deadline is the January 2 cutoff for the March 2012 primaries, but with some early organization as advocated by the Chron, the task for Council should be less time-consuming in 2011. At the very least, a committee can be working on this during 2010, which the Lege cannot do because it’s not in session. I feel confident that this can be done in time for the 2011 election. Given that, and given that we can’t travel back to 2006 and do this then, I think that’s the best choice. But if people want to push for this year, then as long as District H doesn’t get screwed, I can live with that, too.

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