The Houston Community College Board of Trustees approved a new redistricting map on Wednesday, but failed to re-unify a portion of District 4 that includes the Third Ward community.
The 2020 census showed a population gap between its largest and smallest single- member districts – HCC has a total of 9 single-member districts. District 6 has a population of 226,000 individuals and District 3 has 188,000. By law, districts have to be redrawn when the largest and smallest district has a population difference of more than 10%. Currently, the population difference between District 6 and 3 is 19.9%.
In an 8-1 vote, the board approved map 1A, which was the map favored by the majority of the trustees. Dr. Reagan Flowers of District 4 who represents Third Ward, was the no vote.
The board has been working for over a year on the redistricting process, presenting various maps that would rebalance the districts. Trustees were required to approve a new redistricting map by August in time for the November election. During several public meetings over the past few months, residents in Third Ward spoke in favor of an alternate map that would have brought the community back together, after voters were split in 2010 when previous maps were redrawn.
"Map 1A actually rebalances you as a system because it’s a little bit of impact to every single member district," Lisa McBride is a partner at Thompson & Horton, a law firm leading the college through the redistricting process. "It’s not so much that it actually would change any election outcome, because we’re talking about very few voters with respect to each single member district."
The approved map was highly favored by the Latino Community due to its population growth over the years. Residents of the Third Ward community opposed the map because it still divided the community that lost the Northern part of Third Ward to District 3, a predominantly Hispanic district 10 years ago.
A February 15 board meeting drew many residents from both communities who voiced their opinions on which map they thought would give them the best representation.
"We as communities, as Latinos, all communities of minorities and color, let's do the right thing," said Sergio Lira, Chair of the LULAC Task Force. "Let's not move the district lines that were agreed upon by trustees here to keep certain precincts where they are – and not dilute the Latino citizens’ voting population."
Carl Davis, a resident of Third Ward, also spoke during the February 15th meeting.
"I stand here today and ask that you as a board in redrawing these lines not disrupt our community, that I've grown to know and love since my birth," he said. "I've been a resident of the Third Ward community, please keep it intact."
Dr. Reagan Flowers worked for months to get the Northern part of Third Ward back into District 4. She held town hall meetings, engaged in neighborhood civic club meetings, and sent out newsletters to inform her residents of the new maps being proposed.
She said she's disappointed in the board's decision.
"The board largely voted to select that map as it was the map that caused the least amount of change to the other districts," she said. "How I see it is, it's not the way to make a decision, you don't take the path of least resistance – you take the path of doing what's best."
Map 1A did give a precinct back to Third Ward, but the district is still split between two trustees. Flowers said she's proud of the Third Ward community for coming out and using their voice.
"I just applaud the citizens of Third Ward," she said. "It's heartbreaking when you see how people participate specifically, how they get out, they vocalize, and they want to work collaboratively in partnership with you to come up with the best decision."
District 9 Trustee Dr. Pretta Van Dible Stallworth said her constituents also had concerns throughout the process about losing a precinct, but they understood Map 1A was the best decision for all 9 districts.