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District J

More on the new Council districts

For just about everything you could want to know about the new Council districts, go read Greg. Population and registered voter data, 2009 election returns, a look at how the districts have changed and may change in the future, it’s all there. Check it out.

I said in my previous post that we should expect to see some candidates start to appear now that we know where the districts are. Houston Politics mentions a few names.

Criselda Romero, an aide to Councilman Ed Gonzalez, told me she will run for the District J seat. She said she plans to file the paperwork today to appoint a treasurer so she can begin raising money.

Much was made of creating an opportunity for a third Latino to join what will become a 17-member council in January when the newly elected members are seated. District J is 63 percent Latino, though only about 17 percent of the registered voters in the southwest Houston district have Latino surnames.

[…]

The new District K is an African-American stronghold.

Larry Green, CEO of HoustonWorks USA, a non-profit work force development, training and placement organization, has declared his candidacy for the seat. Otis Jordan, former president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association, told me yesterday he’s considering running for the seat as well.

Marc Campos has a pretty good list of candidates here, and as always there’s Noel Freeman’s Facebook note with treasurer filings and rumored candidates. If you know of anyone else sniffing around a race, leave a comment and let us know.

Council officially approves new redistricting map

Let the filings begin!

The Houston City Council approved a new political map for the city on Wednesday that expands the council by two seats and gives Houston’s burgeoning Latino population what community leaders see as its best opportunity to capture a third seat in November elections.

[…]

The City Council’s approval of the new District J, which takes in Gulfton, Sharpstown and other southwest Houston communities, creates a political subdivision where 63 percent of the residents are Hispanics, though only 17 percent of the registered voters have Hispanic surnames.

“It doesn’t mean there will one immediately elected, but this is an opportunity for the Latino community to have a good candidate in this district,” said Councilman Al Hoang.

Councilman James Rodriguez said a “wanted” email has circulated among Hispanic leaders seeking the right person for the District J job.

Now that we have actual lines, and no immediate threat that they may be undone by a lawsuit, we will probably see a bunch of candidates pop up for the new and redrawn districts. Along those lines, Ellen Cohen has confirmed she’s running in District C; her press release is beneath the fold. I’m not yet aware of any candidates for Districts J or K yet; Noel Freeman’s roundup of treasurer filings lists a couple of rumored-to-be-candidates, but nothing solid yet. That will change soon enough. A statement from CM James Rodriguez is also beneath the fold. Greg has more.

UPDATE: Stace has more.

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Mayor presents revised Council map

Here’s the release. There was a press conference today at 10 to roll it out.

Mayor Annise Parker today revealed a second version of the staff redistricting map that incorporates recommendations from members of various Houston communities. The new plan includes four districts in which the total population and voting age population is majority Hispanic; two are majority African American and another is nearing majority African American; one district contains a large and significant Asian population; and three districts have Anglo majorities.

“This new map reflects Houston’s ethnic diversity,” said Mayor Parker. “I am amazed at the level of public participation in this process. It was truly a community effort. I am proud to have presided over a process that was entirely transparent and accessible. I especially thank the members of the Redistricting Oversight Committee, as well as community members as a whole, for their time and input.”

One of the most notable differences between the consensus map and the original is that the consensus map preserves the Hispanic majorities in Districts H and I, respects neighborhood concerns and increases the ability of Hispanics to elect council members in two other districts.

“We are very pleased the mayor and city staff sat with members of Houston’s Hispanic community to find a way to address our representation concerns,” said Laura Murillo, President and CEO, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We support this consensus map, and hope that City Council approves the changes.”

More than 1000 Houstonians attended the City’s 10 town hall meetings – one in every council district – intended to solicit public input before creating the original staff plan. Citizens voiced concerns about neighborhoods, the Voting Rights Act and the ability to elect a council that reflects the diversity of Houston. After the proposal was submitted to Council more than 100 community members came and spoke at the three public hearings.

“The Asian American community of Houston came together to ensure our voice was heard at every opportunity,” said Rogene Calvert, Director, Texas Asian American Redistricting Initiative. “We appreciate the Mayor’s outreach to all communities to produce the best map possible. Redistricting can’t meet everyone’s needs but today we join other Houston minority communities to support this redistricting plan.”

For the first time, Houstonians had access to a computer kiosk loaded with redistricting software and 2010 Census information. Numerous ordinary citizens took the time to draw their own maps and 13 plans were officially submitted for consideration and analysis. Nine met the minimum requirements.

“It is important for Houstonians to know the intricacies of this process, and how hard this committee worked to ensure everyone had the opportunity for equal representation,” said Anthony Hall, Chair, Mayor’s Redistricting Oversight Committee.

The Mayor’s Redistricting Oversight Committee was formed at the beginning of the process to assist and advise the demographer, Jerry Wood, and the mayor. Members include: Anthony Hall (Chair), Roman Martinez, Dr. Adolfo Santos, Zinetta Burney, Sue Schechter, Penny Butler, Gordon Quan, Mace Meeks and Pat Sanchez.

And here’s the map, which is an update to the Robert Jara plan that had been presented to Council last month. You can see the original version of that at Greg’s place. As noted by Marc Campos, CM James Rodriguez has endorsed this plan as well. Ellen Cohen is back where she started in District C, and I remain as always in District H. I don’t know if this means that the 16 single-member district plan is buried or not, but I do expect this plan to be approved, if not tomorrow then next week. Greg has more.

UPDATE: Now Greg has some preliminary data.

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.