There won’t be much time before the boroughs that made up Houston’s counties are set in stone. Before they are, neighbors filled the council chamber on Wednesday, with some expressing frustration.
“These are term limits,” one person told council members. “Enjoy your tenure.”
Every 10 years, the city creates new county maps based on census data. Figures showing nearly half the population is Hispanic, yet there is only one Hispanic council member.
“They tout us as the most international city in the United States, but we’ve failed when it comes to numbers to population,” said LULAC Council 60 President Al Castillo.
To address this, members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) asked the council to move portions from two other districts, which could bring the number to three Hispanic representatives.
“Our primary concern isn’t robbing Peter to pay Paul and moving voters in and out of our district,” Castillo said.
As the council considers changes, Mayor Sylvester Turner took offense at some who said Hispanic voices were not represented.
“This mayor has placed Hispanics at the highest level,” Turner said. “They had a police chief and a fire chief, Hispanic.
This was the last public hearing on the proposals in July. The process began in March when city leaders held community meetings to discuss the new districts.
“I’m not a fan, I’ve said that before, of some of the cards they’ve made. But the fact that you gave us the illusion of inclusion was a start in the right direction,” said Houston’s Tomaro Bell.
Policy experts say there’s a reason the proposed maps aren’t all that different from the current map.
“What’s generally going to happen in this redistribution process is that the current leaders will shape these districts so that the same people stay in power,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University.
Jones said another way to get more Hispanic leaders is to eliminate the five seats at large.
“Houston remains the only major Texas city that still elects city councilors at large,” Jones said. “There’s criticism because no Latino has been elected citywide since 1999.”
Castillo and others also expressed frustration with the vacancy on the council on Wednesday.
“This is hot on the burner,” Castillo said. “That will happen. I’m glad the public came out in large numbers to voice their concerns.”
But others are not ready to get rid of the positions.
“The people at large have no problem standing up because their constituency is equal to that of the mayor,” Bell said. “Think about it. They have to win all over town. So they’ll probably stand up.”
The battle for the seats at large could take years, but the new district maps won’t last that long. Neighbors have until next Friday to submit their own proposals. The Council is due to vote on it in September.
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https://abc13.com/texas-redistricting-houston-politics-hispanic-representation-in-leaders/12063733/ As Houston’s Hispanic population grows, there’s an urge to get more representation