The new map was drawn after the population exceeded 2.1 million as required by city charter. It will add two new positions on city council to keep up with the population growth, and what will become a 17-member council in January. After numerous public hearings and council discussion, the map will have four majority Hispanic districts, two majority African American districts, one heavily Asian one and three with white majorities.
Ed Gonzalez echoed his council colleagues in commending the mayor’s hard work.
“You laid out a framework for us to operate under, and when the first map came out, and there was some opposition or concerns about it, you had an open mind and a willingness to listen to others, and I think that helped going forward, and I think the result bears that out.”
CM Anne Clutterbuck was the lone no vote, because one neighborhood in her district would be split up into three different districts.
“When I took office in 2006, this particular area had one of the highest crime rates in all of Houston. We also had the greatest number of Katrina evacuees living in this part of town, and that neighborhood has strived together to now have the safest zip code in all of Houston.”
She says she hopes the new boundaries don’t dampen the enthusiasm of her soon to be former constituents in her redrawn district.
Attorney and former council member Gracie Saenz says she’s pleased with the outcome. Based on population and demographic shift, she says there is a lot of potential to get more diversity on council.
“Bottom line, we can have all of these new districts with the hopes of getting representation. But unless we have candidates to run, and we get our community to go and vote, it means absolutely nothing. So we really have some work to do now.”
PH: “Is the thought process with the new districts will spur people to…”
Saenz: “I think that’s…yes. We’re bringing together communities of interest here. Our Hispanic population from the Sharpstown area and Gulfton, bringing them together. Of course we also have the advantage of you know, the fact that we have an increased population in this city to vote at-large as well. So hopefully, we can attract some at-large candidates to run.”
The new map will now be given Justice Department scrutiny, to see that it complies with the Voting Rights Act, as it will ultimately guide council elections in November.