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Revisiting City Council redistricting

This would be interesting.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, District E Councilmember Dave Martin said the city should consider redrawing city council district boundaries, particularly in his own district.

District E includes two far-flung suburbs, Kingwood and Clear Lake. Martin said it’s a “ridiculously arranged council district” where it is difficult to coordinate meetings.

“I’ve always felt that the folks in Clear Lake do indeed deserve their own representation there, because it is tough for someone to drive 60 miles on a weekend to get to a certain area,” Martin said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner agreed with Martin’s assessment of District E.

“I will tell you it is an interesting drawing,” Turner said. “Because you certainly cannot go from Kingwood to Clear Lake for a town hall meeting, two town hall meetings.”

Turner said he would support taking a look at the map after the 2020 census.

“I don’t know what the thinking was back then,” Turner said. “But it does seem to be not in the best interest of two areas that are so geographically separated. I think it’s worth taking a look at.”

There’s a copy of the map embedded in the story, and you can also see it here, with links to individual district maps here. It’s true that District E is this two-headed amalgam of far-apart suburbs, with a bit of connecting tissue in between, but any proposed solution to address that is complicated. The problem is that the Kingwood part of E abuts District B, and the Clear Lake part borders on Districts D and I. Any redesign of the current map that would split District E into separate parts has to take into account merging a bunch of white Republicans with a bunch of black and Latinx Democrats. Even before we take Voting Rights Act requirements into consideration, I can guarantee you that a substantial number of people would be unhappy with any alternative.

What you could do is reduce the size of individual districts to be roughly the size of the Kingwood and Clear Lake pieces, then redraw the map with however many districts there would be with such smaller population requirements. That would result in a map with anywhere from 15 to 21 districts, depending on how much you padded out the two halves of E. We can debate whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea, but we’d also probably need a charter amendment to make it happen.

Personally, I’d be willing to at least explore the idea, and maybe have someone draw a few sample maps, to give a picture of what this might look like. Honestly, I think we ought to consider the same for the Legislature, where individual districts have grown in population quite a lot in recent years. This is especially true for Senate districts, which used to be smaller than Congressional districts but are now larger and will get more so in 2021 when Texas is given additional seats in Congress. It’ll never happen of course, but that doesn’t mean we should never think about it.

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6 Comments

  1. Greg Wythe says:

    We’ve come a long way since Mike Sullivan was setting his hair on fire about imminent plans (circa 2011) to pair Kingwood with Fifth Ward.

  2. voter_worker says:

    Sometimes a canal is not just a canal.

  3. RGW says:

    Annex more unincorporated areas nearby that really should be part of the city anyway. Stuff like the two headed E is going to happen with these ridiculous municipal boundaries. For all intents and purposes we all live in the same metro, municipal boundaries should reflect that rather than a hodge podge of tax base cherry picking and excluding undesirable areas. We’re all in this together and the boundaries of the city should reflect that. You really want to save money, merge Harris county, city of Houston and every other tax dodging micro municipality. Get efficiencies of scale, prevent freeloaders, make everything a ton simpler for everyone to understand and fairer. Would make boundary drawing real easy too.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Lumping Kingwood and Clear Lake together makes perfect sense. It’s a council district specifically for people who never wanted to be part of the city of Houston to begin with. As I recall there was protesting and lawsuits from both areas trying to stave off annexation. Only the Woodlands was able to put up enough money to actually fight off the city, and they probably only had the will to do so after seeing what happened to Clear Lake and Kingwood. Fear is a Hell of a motivator.

  5. Mike Sullivan says:

    Greg: Annise Parker was as opposed to splitting up District E as I was. She could have made it happen if she wanted to. She sure as heck didn’t do it for. Was her hair on fire, too?

  6. Mike Sullivan says:

    ***”She sure as heck didn’t do it for me.”