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Dallas Faces Redistricting Deadline

Big crowd for Dallas Redistricting Meeting

By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Dallas City Council members are under a short deadline to come up with a new redistricting map that keeps the political peace between "blacks and browns", plus keeps neighborhoods in tact - not split by district lines. KERA's BJ Austin reports.

At a special "redistricting" city council meeting Saturday, 75 people signed up to speak. Council members presented amendments and new plans for election district boundaries. They must be redrawn based on the 2010 Census population and demographics. Most of the changes were in response to the FIVE Hispanic-majority districts and THREE African-American districts recommended by the Redistricting Commission.

Atkins: My goal is to have four winnable African American seats.

Dallas Councilman Tennell Atkins is one of four African Americans on the city council. He and others have created amendments to maintain the four majority black districts, even though the African American population has dropped to 25% and the Latino population has grown to 42%.

Longtime activist Marvin Crenshaw told the council they should look at "citizen" voting age population when drawing the lines.

Crenshaw: Everything changes when you talk about the citizen voting age population. Many people might not want to hear it.

In the audience, Pleasant Grove's Jesse Diaz didn't buy that.

Diaz: We have people who are immigrants, who are not legally, of course, they cannot vote. But they do pay taxes. And they do buy automobiles, and they buy groceries, so they do contribute.

Diaz says it's time for more Hispanics on the council to represent those people as well as Latino voters.

Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas NAACP warned that losing one African American majority district, would not pass the Voting Rights Act review.

Wallace: Retrogression is not allowed. We will not accept anything less than four African American Districts. Beatrice Martinez with Lulac:

Martinez: We do not need to protect incumbency.Latinos do not have enough representation. Our population has changed and we are still growing.

Mayor Mike Rawlings summed it up.

Rawlings: Obviously the big elephant in the room is are we going to get four African American city council people around this horseshoe. That's what I want. And I think this city is a better place if we have that. So the question is how do we take this input, making sure that we honor the growth of our Latino community.

A "combo" map supported by a majority of the council will be tweaked over the next couple of weeks. The council is to vote on a new map October 5th.

Email BJ Austin