DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Drawing new lines in Dallas is a controversial proposal. On Wednesday a plan was formally presented to the city council.
While discussion among the council was muted, it certainly wasn’t among the public. Former Justice of the Peace Charles Rose told the council that compared to the old map, the new map dilutes black voting strength. “We will be at the Justice Department because the fact is we expect four black districts. You don’t have to pack ’em to win ’em.”
Rose and other African-Americans worry Map-16, as it’s known, creates only three black districts, while assuring Hispanics four…. and maybe a fifth.
Map-16 was created by Hispanic activist Domingo Garcia and two others, including redistricting commissioner Billy Ratcliffe, who pitched the plan today.
During Wednesday’s meeting commission chair Ruth Morgan, though not mentioning Domingo Garcia by name, pointedly said Garcia lobbied commissioners individually outside the public meetings. “I declined to meet with him,” she told the council, “because the chair was trying to exercise neutrality and because this was a private meeting.”
Her group eventually settled on the plan presented today, but it wasn’t unanimous. “I didn’t support Plan-16,” said another redistricting commissioner, Donna Halstead. “It continued some severely-gerrymandered areas that I do not believe are in keeping with the case law.”
Halstead believes Map-16 also doesn’t reflect population shifts and trends. Some council members prefer minority proposals the commission rejected, including one known as Plan-5. “The representation is more evenly distributed and all things considered it gives southern Dallas a better voice,” says councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill.
Several councilmembers have indicated they want to submit amendments to the proposed plan; the deadline from the mayor: the close of business on September 16.
The council is expected to make a final decision by mid-October. When it does — the U.S. Justice department must review the map and give final approval.
Once approved, the new district lines won’t take effect until the 2013 council election.