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demography

HISD postpones redrawing school boundaries

This stuff is hard, y’all.

HISD School Map

The school board [had planned] to vote Thursday on the district’s biggest rezoning plan in recent years, involving more than two dozen campuses.

The proposal mostly would redraw attendance boundaries to shift homes from more crowded schools to campuses with space. The major impact may not be immediate, however. As a nod to surprised parents, the district plans to allow current students and those entering kindergarten this fall to stay at their old schools if they choose.

Superintendent Terry Grier and his staff said in January that the rezoning plan was driven by concerns from the Texas Education Agency that HISD had too many elementary school classes over the state’s cap of 22 students.

Grier told the school board Monday, however, that he spoke recently with Education Commissioner Michael Williams and does not expect the state to crack down on the district. This fall, HISD requested size waivers for 1,499 classes – far more than the 80 sought by Dallas ISD, the state’s second-largest district.

Still, Grier said, he thought most board members wanted fewer waivers, and rezoning is a common way for districts to even out enrollment.

“It’s frustrating to my staff to do what you asked us to do and then get called out publicly and go to meetings and get pounded on,” Grier told the board.

Parents, particularly on the city’s west side, have packed recent meetings about the rezoning.

In response, Grier’s administration has revised the plan. The biggest change involves removing fewer homes from the Bush Elementary zone and turning Shadowbriar Elementary, about 4 miles away, into a magnet school that would take overflow from Bush, Ashford, Askew and Daily.

The hope is that Shadowbriar’s specialty program – the theme has not been picked – would reduce crowding by drawing students voluntarily from nearby campuses.

The plan also calls for reducing crowding or expected enrollment growth at Lyons, Smith, Tinsley and Young Elementary schools. Their attendance boundaries would shrink, with students rezoned to other schools.

See here for the background. The Board ultimately tabled the proposal and will ask for a more comprehensive plan, one that will presumably draw fewer complaints from parents who are no longer in the zone they wanted to be in. I notice on the Chron’s interactive map that the two popular schools in my neighborhood, Travis and Harvard Elementary Schools, are both affected by this plan, but only in a minor way in that no current students would be zoned out. People looking to move into the Heights in the future, however, would be wise to stay on top of this.

HISD considers a different kind of redistricting

It would likely be just as contentious as the usual kind.

HISD School Map

Houston school officials may rezone students from roughly two dozen elementary schools over the next few years in an effort to meet the state’s class size limits.

District officials presented a proposal to the school board Thursday morning. It would be the largest redrawing of attendance boundaries in years.

HISD trustee Harvin Moore acknowledged that he expects concerns from parents.

“It’s hard to find a popular change in boundaries,” Moore said.

The Houston Independent School District required 1,499 waivers from the Texas Education Agency this year to exceed the state’s 22-student class size cap. The district’s goal is to cut the number of waivers by 50 percent next school year.

The full Chron story is here, and you can see the current school boundary maps here. There’s a list of potentially affected schools at the first link above. This sort of thing is never easily done or lightly undertaken, but the goal of reducing the number of class size waivers is a good one, and will hopefully make everyone want to get this done. The Board will vote on this in March, so contact your board member if you have any questions or concerns.

Once again with Anglo Dems and Anglo voters

Time once again for the biennial eulogy for Anglo Democrats in the Texas Legislature.

Rep. Donna Howard

When Donna Howard of Austin won a seat in the Texas House in 2006, she was the only white woman among Democrats in the state Legislature.

Over time, several others joined her briefly. But four elections later, Howard will once again be the only white woman among Democrats in the Legislature.

After the winners of Tuesday’s elections are sworn in, 63 of the 181 seats — 31 senators and 150 representatives — will be held by Democrats. Seven will be white. In contrast, Republicans will hold 118 seats. Only eight of them are minorities.

The tally of white Democrats in the Texas Legislature has been decreasing at a time when the legislative redistricting process and the state’s changing demographics have fueled the relative rise of minority winners from Democratic districts. The party has been trying to broaden its voting base, in part by mobilizing Hispanic supporters and attracting politically unaffiliated Texans.

But some Texas Democrats worry that the loss of white lawmakers could complicate efforts to attract independent voters if they are unable to argue that they represent all Texans, including Anglos.

[…]

Texas Democrats acknowledge that Republicans have been particularly successful in defeating white Democrats in rural districts.

Republicans have focused on white Democrats in a “very calculated” way “because they wanted to push this idea that the Democratic Party was just about minorities, which is not true,” said Jim Dunnam of Waco, a former representative who lost his seat to a Republican in 2010.

Political analysts said Democrats have been losing in rural areas because they are easier targets. Jerry Polinard, a political-science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, said Republicans have focused on capturing districts with a majority of white residents, lightly redrawing district lines to favor their candidates.

Districts made up largely of minorities, which tend to lean Democratic, are not easily redrawn without inciting legal challenges, Polinard said.

“Obviously, in terms of the demographics of voting, Republicans pull much more strongly from the white vote,” Polinard said. Historically, minorities in Texas tend to vote Democratic.

Craig Murphy, a longtime Republican consultant, said white Democrats in rural areas became “inherently weak” when Republicans realized that they voted along party lines in the Legislature but went back to their Republican-leaning districts and pretended to be conservative.

“They were just very vulnerable incumbents,” Murphy said. “Many of them should not have had the right expectations to survive.”

But he brushed off the idea that Republicans were attempting to marginalize minority voters. The party was focused on winning as many seats as it could, he said.

I began this piece before Thanksgiving, and procrastinated long enough for the Statesman to write more or less the same piece this past Sunday. I covered a lot of this ground two years ago when there were 11 Anglo Dems in the Lege. What I said then is largely true now. There remain opportunities for Dems to reverse this trend a little – the three Dallas districts 105, 107, and 113, plus 136 in Williamson County are all potential targets for Anglo Dems in 2016. Beyond that lie the suburban counties, where if Texas’ electoral makeup ever changes Democratic gains will have to occur. No guarantees, obviously, and any gains made in 2016 could be balanced by retirements and/or primary challenges elsewhere, or wiped out in 2018. But it’s hardly hopeless.

I should note that of the 98 GOP-held districts right now, all but 5 are majority Anglo according to the 2008-2012 ACS report. Two of those five – HDs 117 and 144 – I’d expect to revert back to the Dems in 2016; they may flip again in 2018, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The two ways that a Democrat could win in one or more of these other districts is 1) altering racial mix of the electorate, either via demographic change or better turnout efforts; a lot of these districts are between 50 and 55% Anglo, so it wouldn’t take much; and 2) doing better among white voters. I’m not sure which will be the greater challenge, but those are the choices. Fortunately, they’re not mutually exclusive.

You wonder if Dems have hit bottom in how little support they can get from Anglos, which is probably in the mid 20s right now, or if there are further depths to plumb. There’s no way to avoid the fact that this happened while Barack Obama was President – Republicans were certainly fervent in their opposition to Bill Clinton, but race wasn’t the factor it is now. This has led to some speculation that things could turn around at least a little with Hillary Clinton on the ballot, and hopefully in the White House.

The top minds in the proto-Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign infrastructure are already gaming out Electoral College scenarios. What they think they have is a candidate who could compete in a handful of traditionally red states, putting Republicans on the defensive and increasing her chances of winning the White House.

Mitch Stewart, Obama’s 2012 battleground state director who is now an independent consultant advising the grassroots group Ready for Hillary, laid out the electoral math to TPM in a recent interview. Clinton will start with Obama’s map, he said, and can build from there.

There are two buckets of states potentially in play. Arkansas, Indiana and Missouri comprise one bucket. The first is a somewhat unique case, given Clinton’s history there, while the other two were razor-thin in 2008, but the principle is the same: Clinton has a record of appealing to white working-class voters — especially women — and they could be enough when paired with the Obama coalition to pull out a win.

“Where I think Secretary Clinton has more appeal than any other Democrat looking at running is that with white working-class voters, she does have a connection,” Stewart said. “I think she’s best positioned to open those states.”

[…]

“I think Hillary Clinton can be a temporary salve to Democrats’ fading chances with white voters, primarily because she will attract women,” Carter Eskew, a top adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 campaign, told TPM. “If she supplements her gender appeal with a real contrast on the economy, then all the better.”

That will be key, Stewart agreed. Clinton has already been testing a 2016 message that heavily emphasizes wage growth and expanding the middle class. That’s how she’ll attract those voters that could bring these additional states into reach.

“For whatever reason, Democrats have not been able to articulate a message that resonates even though our economic values align with that working-class family’s economic values,” Stewart said. “It’s something that we have to figure out.”

It is not a universally shared opinion, however. Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum outlined why Democratic struggles with the white working class have become so ingrained in recent years. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, sounded skeptical when asked by TPM about Clinton’s ability to break through with that population.

“It’s possible, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said in an email. “The hardening of party lines during the Bush and Obama years make switches more difficult unless they are propelled purely by demographic shifts.”

Texas isn’t explicitly mentioned in this analysis, but if Dems do better with white voters in places like Arkansas and Missouri, one would expect them to improve by some amount here as well. It’s a nice thought, if you believe it to be possible. I for one am old enough to remember when a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2008 was going to be the death of Democrats in Texas, because she got Republicans so riled up. I argued at the time that any Democrat would have that effect, and I think I’ve been proven right. Things are different now – there’s less ticket-splitting, for one thing, and I just feel like a lot of attitudes have hardened. I believe, or at least I want to believe, there could be something to this. I’ll need to see some polling data, and to hear the idea floated seriously by someone other than a member of Team Hillary.

Fort Bend’s electoral future

Fort Bend County isn’t what it used to be politically, but it’s also not what it ought to be headed for yet.

It has been more than two decades since a Democrat won countywide office in Fort Bend, but swift growth and shifting demographics are prompting the party to take a second look at the traditionally red county west of Houston and forcing Republicans to adapt.

The number of registered voters in Fort Bend has increased by a third since 2008, and non-Hispanic whites no longer comprise a majority.

The Fort Bend County Democratic Party is using digital analysis to target a narrow segment of likely liberal voters. The effort is being bolstered by paid staff from Battleground Texas, a political action committee formed to make Texas competitive for Democrats.

By fielding a candidate to oppose Fort Bend’s longtime Republican district attorney – another first – Democrats hope to test their new strategies.

Also seeking to capitalize on the area’s growth, the Fort Bend County Republican Party has opened its first field office in Katy.

“My goal is to prove that (Battleground Texas) was wasted money,” county GOP Chairman Mike Gibson said. “But am I taking it lightly? No. We’re going to run like we’re 20 points behind with an outside organization trying to influence it.”

Political analysts still place Fort Bend solidly in the GOP column, but say the margin of victory in Fort Bend elections could signal the health of the dominant Republican party and the odds of Democrats keeping their promise to turn Texas blue.

To Donald Bankston, the Fort Bend Democratic chairman, it’s inevitable that his party will regain dominance.

“There’s been a seismic shift in the demographics,” he said. “If this was a highly voting county, this county would be reliably Democratic.”

The share of the population that is non-Hispanic white shrunk from 54 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 2013, according to Census figures. Because Latino, African-American and Asian voters tend to lean liberal, Bankston hopes to convince them to turn out at the polls as reliably as their white counterparts, giving Democrats a fighting chance.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said the equation for taking over Fort Bend is not so simple.

“Minority doesn’t equal Democrat,” Jones said. “Minorities on average tend to vote Democrat significantly more than Republican, but that varies notably among some groups.”

True, but not that big a factor in this case. It’s about turnout and engagement. Democrats can’t take for granted that turnout among populations friendly to them will continue to rise as their share of the overall population increases, they can’t assume that people who have been turned off by Republicans’ harsh and often racist rhetoric will necessarily flock to them, and they can’t assume that Republican rhetoric will remain that toxic forever. Republicans can’t assume that Asians and Latinos “just don’t know yet” that they’re really Republicans, and sooner or later they really are going to have to figure out how to tame the dominant but shrinking enraged nihilist faction of their party. I have considered Fort Bend to be like Harris politically, just maybe a step or two behind. FB came close to being blue in 2008, and like Harris took a bit of a step backward in 2012 when the excitement wasn’t quit as high as it had been then. In between was 2010, and the less said about that, the better. There are some good candidates running under the Fort Bend Democratic Party banner this year, but sometimes outside forces are too big for that. No matter what happens, there should be plenty of lessons to learn from this election.

San Antonio’s “Little India”

I love stories like this.

On a recent Saturday morning, about two dozen men in team jerseys gathered on grounds in the far North Side with their kits of helmets, bats and protective gear, pumped to play cricket.

The scoreboard went up. Stumps were placed 66 feet apart, defining the wicket. Morning drizzle gave way to sunshine, and the match started, with a jumble of sounds — the crack of leather-covered balls against willow cricket bats and eight Indian dialects as players shouted encouragement to teammates on the pitch.

While the only “hard ball” format in town, which because of the weight of the ball isn’t necessarily for beginners, it wasn’t the only game of cricket played that day in San Antonio.

South Asian immigrants, primarily from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have been a growing presence here, with many of them taking high-skill positions with economic powerhouses such as Valero Energy Corp., H-E-B and the South Texas Medical Center.

Off the job, they gravitate toward the game most have been playing since preschool.

Some of the players are transitory, in town on one- or two-year work contracts. But many others have brought their wives, are starting families and are pursuing permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.

As a result of the influx, clusters of Indian and Pakistani grocery stores and restaurants — known as “little India” — have sprouted near the headquarters of USAA, a major importer of South Asian information technology workers, and close to the Medical Center, the workplace of scores of Indian-born physicians and medical researchers.

[…]

[Sol Hooda, a real estate agent who was one of the founders of the Alamo City Cricket League] who was born in Bangladesh, estimates between 250 and 400 South Asians lived here when he moved to San Antonio in the early 1990s. Now, he said, the number is in the thousands.

“A lot of people are coming from California, Chicago, New York, Atlanta,” he said. “I have several clients that were (on) temporary visas, but now they’re permanent. So they decided, ‘Hey, let’s buy a home.’ And they make good money, their credit is good, so they can afford to buy.”

Dr. Jayesh Shah, president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said there are now as many as 3,000 families of Indian origin in the city and about 300 physicians.

Largely because Shah lives here, the city hosted the association’s 32nd annual convention last week. The gathering of doctors from around the country included appearances by U.S. surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy, Miss America Nina Davuluri (the first Indian-American to win the crown) and a live video address from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Part of the event was a celebration of “Mexican-Indian” culture, Shah said, including a tribute to La Meri, a San Antonio dancer who became proficient in Indian dance.

There also was daily yoga, a fashion show and a performance by Bollywood music stars.

It was be a chance to show off San Antonio’s charms to a well-heeled demographic.

“It matches the Indian climate, kind of,” Shah said. “And San Antonio is a nice city. It’s a big city, but it’s small, you know, and everybody’s well connected to each other.”

The Indian population here is small-scale compared with cities such as Houston, New York, Chicago and San Jose, California. But its growth fits in with a wave of immigration that has made Indians the U.S.’s third-largest immigrant group by country of origin, behind Mexico and China.

One in seven patients in America is now seen by Indian-born physician, Shah said.

I worked two summers at USAA while I was in college in the 80s, and I was reasonably familiar with the “Little India” area described above, but suffice it to say it was different back then. Consider this separate but related to the other recent stories about demographic changes in Texas’ cities. The emergence of not one but two cricket leagues is a bonus.

White return flight

Some interesting demographic trends going on.

Between 2000 and 2010, [Harris] county, like much of the U.S., saw a sharp decline of its white population, losing about 12 percent of Anglos or about 83,000 people.

The drop mirrors demographic shifts across the nation as white birthrates have slowed. But in the past three years, Harris County added about 25,000 white residents, about 11 percent of its approximately 227,800 new residents, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

While the greatest drivers of the county’s growth are still Hispanics, it’s the reversal of the decadelong white decline that grabs demographers.

“It’s a surprising pattern given what we saw in the last decade, and indicative of the overall pervasiveness of population growth in Texas and especially in Houston,” said Steve Murdock, a onetime state demographer and former Census Bureau director who now leads the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University.

“The amount of growth, percentage-wise, is almost the same as the decline … that’s a fairly substantial change,” Murdock said.

Though Anglos remain the nation’s largest racial group, it’s the only demographic group which is shrinking rather than growing. Last year, it was the sole group to count more deaths than births.

Texas, on the other hand, saw the largest numeric increase of white residents in the U.S. between 2012 and 2013, gaining about 51,000 Anglos

Within Harris County, where Anglos make up about 32 percent of the population or about 1.3 million, some 9,000 white residents were added last year.

“There’s a significant amount of Anglos moving into the region from outside of Houston,” said Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research for the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development organization.

“They’re coming here because of the jobs. … If you look at all the growth in the Energy Corridor and the Medical Center, and the new Exxon campus in The Woodlands, we’re attracting workers who are more skilled, and many of them are white.”

But he suggested there might be a more subtle shift as well. Because Houston is attracting more single or young workers seeking to cash in on the energy and medical booms, an increasing number, like Carey and Bowen, are choosing to live in Houston rather than more suburban, neighboring counties.

“There’s no white flight anymore,” Jankowski said. “People are more and more accepting of different races and different ethnicities. They don’t care about their next-door neighbor as long as the lawn is mowed.”

As we know, some parts of town were getting whiter long before this. There are lots of questions one could ask about this, but for me I always come to the political implications. While it’s true that the increase in Harris County’s Anglo population is a reversal of earlier trends, the overall trend of Harris County getting less white hasn’t changed, it’s just decelerated a bit. I doubt there will be much change at a macro level, but there could be some effects here and there, especially in lower-turnout environments. It would be nice to know more about where these folks are coming from and what their existing proclivities are, but without that information we’ll just have to hypothesize.

One related tidbit from a different story.

Demand for high-density living grew across the state, according to the report. San Antonio saw the biggest increase in sales at 18 percent, followed by Austin at 14 percent. In Dallas, sales were up 4 percent.

“There is little available land for housing development in Texas’ major metro areas, particularly in its urban centers where housing demand is strongest,” [Jim Gaines, an economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University] said in the report. “Developers are now looking upward for opportunities to build and invest in multifamily developments both in these centers and even in some suburban areas. Condo sales will likely be a strong driver in the Texas housing market for the rest of the year.”

Developer Randall Davis said rising single-family housing prices are driving expansion in the condominium market. Builders can put multiple units on one site, he said, and “deliver a product that’s almost equivalent but at a lesser price.”

More of Houston’s big builders, too, are interested in developing in the central city, said Gary Latz of Bohlke Consulting Group, a consulting firm for the housing industry.

Over the last 12 months, residential permits within Beltway 8 were up 22.8 percent over the same period last year. That’s compared with the overall Houston area, which was up 9.3 percent.

“People love the idea of living in closer and being close to all the amenities Houston has to offer,” Latz said.

Again, that’s a trend that’s been happening for some time now. Maybe if it keeps up we can get some more infrastructure spending inside the Beltway, too? Because that would be nice.

The story from Dallas is similar but not quite the same.

“Let’s look at Dallas County,” said Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. “There was growth in the Asian population, no doubt about it. But we also see a turnaround in growth in the non-Hispanic white population.”

While Dallas County showed a loss of 1,436 non-Hispanic whites from the 2010 census through July 1, 2013, that’s minuscule compared with losses in the previous decade, Murdock said.

“If you had the same pattern going on as you had in the last decade, you would have lost a good number more,” he said. “At this rate, you might lose 5,000 over this decade, compared with the loss of 198,000 over the last decade. We’re seeing the same thing in Harris County, where it changed from a negative to a positive.”

While non-Hispanic whites continue to move to suburbs, it could be that some younger folks and empty-nesters are finding urban centers more attractive for lifestyle reasons. And, demographers say, those leaving are being replaced by others looking for jobs, either from other parts of Texas or out of state.

“When you look at the state level,” said Lloyd Potter, the Texas state demographer, “we’re seeing positive immigration of non-Hispanic whites.”

The splashy numbers, though, came from growth rates in the Asian population — up 20 percent in Denton County, 18.5 percent in Rockwall, 18.1 percent in Collin, 14.9 percent in Dallas and 10.8 percent in Tarrant — over the last three years. In many ways that’s a continuation of the trends from 2000 to 2010, when Asians and Hispanics were the two fastest-growing groups in the state.

Hispanic growth rates were still double-digit in Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties at 11.2, 13.7 and 14 percent, respectively, for the three-year period, “but the rate of growth is down in Collin” compared with the previous decade, Murdock said.

[…]

The non-Hispanic black population is growing rapidly as well — up 19.6 percent in Denton, 18.1 percent in Collin, 12.5 percent in Rockwall, 10 percent in Tarrant and 5.8 percent in Dallas.

Much of the growth across the region and the state comes from migration, Potter and Murdock agreed, and that migration is driven largely by jobs.

“Overall, I think we’re seeing that Hispanic growth rates are down, but the non-Hispanic white losses have been significantly reversed,” said Murdock, a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

He used Travis County as an example.

“From 2000 to 2010, Travis County added about 59,000 non-Hispanic whites,” Murdock said. “This time, it has added 41,000 non-Hispanic whites in the first three years,” an annual rate that roughly doubles that of the previous decade.

I don’t really have anything to add to that, I just find stories like these to be fascinating. Whatever else you can say about Texas, it’s not static.

Saturday mini-link roundup

Three stories you should read that I didn’t have time to devote a full post to:

AusChron: Abbott’s abject CPRIT failures

Still not Greg Abbott

The scandal broke after letters between the agency’s chief science officer, Nobel laureate Dr. Alfred Gilman, and CPRIT’s Chief Commercialization Officer Jerry Cobbs were released, in which Gilman repeatedly questioned the ethics of multiple grants, while Cobbs shot down his criticisms. Gilman finally resigned in protest over $20 million to local research incubator groups, and he was quickly followed by a slew of top-ranked researchers from bodies including the Harvard and Stanford medical schools, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. By contrast, Cobbs is currently under indictment in Travis County for the first-degree felony of securing execution of a document by deception, regarding the granting of $11 million to Peloton Therapeutics Inc. In January 2013, CPRIT was subject to a damning report by Texas State Auditor John Keel, advising that it revamp every stage of the grant process, from evaluation to research progress, after which lawmakers effectively shut it down, and opened back up with increased controls and oversight.

Arguably, oversight was what was missing in the first place. It was supposed to be there, and Abbott was supposed to be providing it. From its inception, CPRIT had an oversight committee, which included both the attorney general and Comptroller Susan Combs. However, out of 23 committee meetings between June 23, 2008, and Feb 25, 2013, Abbott attended exactly zero. Abbott’s campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch has since said that he removed himself, rather than face conflicts of interest. However, rather than stepping down completely, he sent designees from his office: Then-Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel Andrew Weber attended the first meeting, then the task was handed over to Deputy Attorney General for Government and External Affairs Jay Dyer, who would himself miss several meetings in the following four years. Hopefully, they were giving Abbott extensive notes, because he did not seem to be that inquisitive. The Dallas Morning News found that in his five years on the committee, Abbott sent a grand total of nine emails to “key state officials” on CPRIT’s problems.

So what was keeping Abbott so distracted? Democratic pressure group the Lone Star Project went through Abbott’s diary and compared his calendar with the committee’s schedule, and found that on 10 of the 23 meeting days, he had no official events booked. And what kept him busy on the other 13? A lot of time with the press. He crammed 20 interviews and briefings into those days. He even skipped meetings at the height of the public scandal, after the release of the Cobbs-Gilman emails. On Oct. 24, 2012 (less than two weeks after some of the nation’s leading cancer researchers had severed all ties with the agency in protest over its mismanagement and their concerns of nepotism in the incubator grant), both Abbott and Dyer were absent, even though the top item on the agenda was the discussion of hiring a replacement for Gilman. Instead, the state’s top attorney was busy on Fox News ginning up a false controversy about international elections monitors visiting Texas to observe the Democratic process.

The story is related to Wendy Davis’ ongoing attacks against Abbott for his manifest failure to do his job on CPRIT. The facts of this sorry story are so unfavorable to Abbott that I have to think they’ll do some real damage to him. That’s my heart talking more than my brain, but we’ll see.

Texas Observer: Millennial Hispanics are way more secular than their ancestors

Pew’s survey of more than 5,000 Hispanics nationwide shows that an increasing number of Latinos are leaving Catholicism, their childhood faith. Just 55 percent of those surveyed identify themselves as Catholic, down from 67 percent in the previous comprehensive study in 2006. Now, nearly a quarter of all Hispanics say they are former Catholics. Overall, non-Catholics are nearly evenly divided between evangelical Protestants (16 percent) and those who profess no religious affiliation (18 percent). Mainline Protestants and other Christians round out the remaining 8 percent.

The conversion of some Catholics to evangelicals holds out hope for the GOP. Consider the study’s findings on abortion. Overall, Hispanics tend to be conservative on this issue. Fifty-three percent say that abortion should be completely or mostly illegal, with just 40 percent in favor of abortion rights—a flip of the 40/54 percent split among Americans generally. With Hispanic evangelicals, 70 percent are in favor of making abortion illegal. That’s even more than white (non-Hispanic) evangelicals. Even so, these evangelical Hispanics still mostly identify as Democrats (48 percent vs. 30 percent support for the GOP). That’s progress for Republicans since, overall, Hispanics identify as Democrats 56/21 percent.

But this is little more than a consolation prize when contrasted with how religiously unaffiliated Hispanics are changing the landscape. The unaffiliated, also known as “nones,” include those who think of themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” and those who are neither spiritual nor religious. They are far more pro-choice than Hispanics overall, even more so than the general public. They are also staunchly Democratic, overwhelming Republicans by 4-to-1.

According to the study, the bulk of the “nones” are young. What’s going on with the under-30 crowd? These are millennials, a generation significantly detached from institutions, making its presence felt. In 2010, unaffiliated Hispanics made up 14 percent of the 18-29 category. In 2013, as millennials rapidly came to dominate and define that age group, the unaffiliated more than doubled, rising to 31 percent of the cohort.

Hispanic millennials are a demographic tidal wave, the dominant ethnicity among millennials. Some 800,000 underage Hispanics turn voting age every year. They are the first generation that is mostly U.S.-born and identify closely with their non-Hispanic contemporaries. Their turn toward being “nones” closely matches the national trend, according to a separate Pew study. As the remaining millennial Hispanics come of age over the next decade, “nones” could wipe out whatever modest gains the GOP now enjoys with evangelical Hispanics.

Getting them to turn out, that’s the challenge for Democrats, especially this year. And if they do get engaged and involved in proportion to their numbers, expect the potential for change within the Democratic Party to be at least as big as the potential for change in Texas. Which, to be clear, I welcome.

Texas Election Law Blog: An under the radar assault on voting rights

So … let’s recap. By law, (see Section 11.001, Texas Election Code) you are citizen of Texas as soon as you permanently reside in Texas. As soon as you permanently reside in Texas, you qualify to vote and can apply for a voter registration certificate. But you can’t use a voter registration certificate by itself to vote. To vote, you need a picture I.D. issued by the Department of Public Safety. But to get a picture I.D., you need to prove that you’ve been domiciled in Texas for at least 30 days. (You’ll also need to prove your citizenship and identity, which, as I have described before, is another sort of fresh hell, but enough about that).

But to prove that you’ve been domiciled in Texas for at least 30 days, you’ll either have to present the documentary proof of your financial respectability (in the form of bank statements, utility bills, and paychecks), or you’ll have to fall back on the mercy of the modern poor house or work farm, getting someone else in a position of paternal responsibility to vouch for you as not being entirely transient and rootless.

The State of Texas (a state whose independence was precipitated by the actions of transient adventurers and freebooters) certainly seems to have put away the “welcome” mat once and for all.

This is the result of a change made to the Transportation Code in 2009, which two years later when voter ID passed combined to put an extra burden on would-be voters. It’s yet another reason why the voter ID law needs to be declared unconstitutional.

Go check them all out, they’re worth your time.

It’s not so cheap to live in Houston any more

It’s the downside of a hot job market and an improving national reputation for being a cool place to live.

BagOfMoney

Business and city leaders often tout the Houston region as one of the most affordable markets in the country. But first-time homebuyers like the Schaefers are finding that image increasingly outdated.

“We are in a hot market, and it does pose some challenges,” said Patrick Jankowski, executive vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership. “There’s a cliché in Houston that you just drive until you find something you can afford. People are finding that’s becoming a farther stretch.”

The housing market has seen sales soar, prices rise and inventory shrink. Many households now could spend up to half their paychecks on housing and commuting.

Jankowski said Houston’s job growth led to an influx of new people seeking housing options in the last few years. He said affordability could be a concern going forward, especially as longer commutes tack on more cost.

[…]

Real estate experts and economists say that, although Houston is still affordable compared to other large markets, double-digit price increases could chip away at that reputation. The pattern could alienate first-time homebuyers, leave the middle class with fewer options and drive low-income residents into rundown apartments.

“It can be a challenge to understand why home price increases can be a bad thing coming out of the recession,” said Janet Viveiros, with the Washington, D.C.-based National Housing Center, who authored a report about affordable housing this year. “House prices are surging, and rents are surging. It puts buyers in a situation where they have to make difficult decisions.”

In Houston, the fact that about 80 percent of housing activity is outside Beltway 8 contributes to its reputation as an inexpensive market.

Home sales and prices from 2013 show strong growth everywhere: Overall, home prices rose 9.4 percent, the Houston Association of Realtors reports in an analysis of sales, prices and inventory for the Houston Chronicle. Inside Loop 610, prices rose 12 percent, and they were up almost 20 percent from the Loop to Beltway 8 and 9 percent outside the Beltway.

[…]

“Is it losing some of its competitively priced housing? A little bit, but it’s not a major concern yet,” Jim Gaines, research economist at the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, said of the area. “The middle class, or working class, can still find affordable housing. It’s just not as abundant as it was.”

Still, he said, recent price increases threaten to hurt.

“If prices go up 12 percent, I guarantee incomes didn’t go up 12 percent,” he said. “If you continue double-digit price growth for several years and don’t get corresponding income, then you get out of whack.”

The median household income for Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land is $55,910, according to the 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey.

The low housing stock is driving up values on all types of properties, according to Sheri Smith, an associate professor in the school of public affairs at Texas Southern University. Working Houstonians who can afford $125,000 to $150,000 houses are being priced out of the market or forced into rentals or housing in the suburban fringes.

“Middle-income individuals are not finding affordable housing,” Smith said.

A recent Rice University study found Houstonians typically pay 30 percent of their income on housing, including mortgages and rents. Compare that to those in New York City who spend 25 percent of their income on housing, 25 percent for Chicago and 31 percent in Los Angeles, based on 2011 data.

Once transportation costs are factored in, almost half of the typical Houstonian’s income – 46 percent – is gone.

I’ll bet those figures are a surprise to a lot of folks. New York especially has a reputation for being an expensive place to live, but if you’re earning enough money, it’s not a problem. Of course, you have to earn a heck of a lot of money in Manhattan or you’re screwed. So Houston still has that going for it.

As for what should be done about the problem, clearly more supply is needed. I’ve talked before about how we really have to do something with the many empty spaces in Houston. The reason so much construction occurs in the far out reaches of Harris County is because that’s where the empty land is. Empty and underutilized spaces exist in Houston, too. We need to figure out ways to encourage construction in these places. That’s going to require an investment in infrastructure in a lot of these places – fixing roads, adding drainage, etc – but the alternative is letting all the growth occur in the hinterlands and dealing with the effects of that.

Another solution is going to be more highrises. It’s the only way to increase the available housing on limited land. Houston does have some limits on where highrises can be built, but the bigger constraint these days is neighborhood resistance. Lots of places are not appropriate for highrises, and you can’t do much about aesthetic objections to them, but traffic concerns can and should be addressed. As I’ve said before, more density needs more transit. As with infrastructure, that’s going to cost some money, but it’s a vital investment. The alternative is to curse traffic for all eternity, as the folks down in Pearland are fixing to learn.

I guess what I’m saying is we can keep doing what we’ve always done and hope it works out for the best, or we can try to figure out some policies that might help alleviate the housing shortage and make the best use of the land we have available, then figure out a way to pay for it. The former is easy, of course, and it’s more or less worked fairly well for the greater Houston area, though arguably not so well for every part of it, and arguably not so well for the city as opposed to the metro area. Doing the latter is a lot harder and there’s no guarantee we can even pull it off, but it has the upside of maybe solving some of these vexing problems that the market tends not to care about. I really don’t expect anything but Door #1, but it can’t hurt to point out that we do in fact have a choice.

Another trip down Demography Lane

From the Sunday Chron op-ed pages:

Texas is headed for the ditch, but few people are aware of the state’s perilous path. The demographers have seen the future, though, because it’s foretold in their numbers. And they’ve been sounding the alarm.

There hasn’t been much of a public-policy response, so far.

Texas could be the pacesetter: It has a young and rapidly growing population. Educate that workforce and Texas becomes a vibrant, thriving state for decades. Unfortunately, that young population is overwhelmingly minority and under-educated, and there appears to be little political interest in addressing the needs of that demographic group.

Increasingly, Texas stands to become poorer and less competitive, according to demographers who study the numbers for a living. Neither state leaders nor the media is paying adequate attention. Few Texans are aware of the state’s rapidly changing population. Hispanics will surpass whites as the largest population group some time before 2020.

By the numbers, here’s what’s been taking place: The state lost 184,486 white children between 2000 and 2010 while gaining 931,012 Hispanic children over that decade, according to the U.S. Census. Stated another way, in 2000, Texas white kids outnumbered Hispanic children by 120,382; Flash forward to 2010 and Hispanic children outnumbered white kids by 995,116.

This gap will continue to widen. Demographer Steve Murdock notes the average white female is 42 years old compared to an average age of 28 for Latinas. And the fertility rate is 1.9 children for the white female compared to 2.7 for the Latina. Demographers say replacement of a population group requires a fertility rate of at least 2.1.

Whites are projected to make up fewer than 4 percent of the state’s population growth between now and 2040, compared to 78 percent for Texas Hispanics.

Here’s the most important figure: All of our K-12 enrollment growth over the past decade comes from low-income children – that is, children whose family income qualifies them for free and reduced-cost school lunches. Those low-income students now make up a little more than 60 percent of our public school enrollment.

Many are way behind when they arrive in the first grade. Too many drop out years later. A whopping 47 percent of low-income high school students from the Class of 2015 were off track to graduate, according to testimony in last year’s public school finance trial.

Why does this matter? Murdock, who served as director of the U.S Census Bureau in the administration of President George W. Bush, projects that three out of 10 Texas workers will not have a high school diploma by 2040. Also, in 25 years, the average Texas household income will be some $6,500 less than it was in the year 2000. The figure is not inflation-adjusted, so it will be worse than it sounds. Basically, today’s children, collectively, stand to be worse off than preceding generations.

How can we address the trend line? The first step is to increase access to high-quality pre-K, Murdock says.

[…]

The demographers are warning us about the not so-rosy future if we fail to act. Education is the answer. Education is the best ticket out of poverty. We simply need state leaders to understand a universal truth: It doesn’t cost to educate a child; it pays to educate a child.

This is a condensed version of a longer piece by former Chron and Express-News reporter Gary Scharrer, which first appeared on Texas To The World. Scharrer was more recently on the staff of now-former Sen. Tommy Williams. Steve Murdock is a familiar name in this blog – he’s been singing this tune for well over a decade now, not that the powers that be have been listening. Here’s an interview I did with him in 2011, just as the Legislature was getting set to cut $5.4 billion from public education and $200 million from pre-k, because they suck like that. As we know, these issues are salient in the election for Governor this fall. You tell me whose pre-k plan, not to mention whose overall vision for education, is a better fit for our future.

On schools and neighborhoods

Efforts to revitalize neighborhoods in the Fifth Ward are running into HISD’s proposal to close five schools.

Nearly half the students who attend Nathaniel Q. Henderson Elementary School live steps away from campus in an aging, rundown apartment complex. The neighborhood, in Houston’s historic Fifth Ward, is at a crossroads.

The city is seeking a federal grant to help fund a multimillion-dollar makeover of Cleme Manor Apartments, even as school district officials consider closing N.Q. Henderson Elementary due to low enrollment.

Parents and elected officials in the area say they see a contradiction, with the high-poverty neighborhood northeast of downtown teetering between deterioration and revitalization.

“If there’s no school, how am I going to draw more people in this area?” City Councilman Jerry Davis asked the school board this month. “We need to work together. We can’t have one entity going out doing good works and not the other.”

Henderson Elementary is one of five campuses on HISD’s potential closure list. After hearing from the public at a series of meetings, the district plans to reveal any changes to the proposal next week. The school board is set to vote March 13.

One of HISD’s smallest elementary schools, Henderson enrolls roughly 360 students. About 170 live at Cleme Manor Apartments, a development for low-income tenants on Coke Street, a crosswalk away from Henderson.

In early February, the city’s housing department gave notice that it is seeking final approval for a $3 million federal grant to renovate Cleme Manor. The project, according to the notice, would promote affordable housing and “encourage economic revitalization for Houston’s near north-side.” The funds would come from a grant dedicated to recovery after Hurricane Ike.

[…]

The city also is considering pursuing a federal grant to help fund more than 160 single-family homes that would be scattered across the Fifth Ward, said Stedman Grigsby of the Housing and Community Development Department.

Justin Silhavy, the demographer for the Houston Independent School District, said he is in regular contact with city officials and knows about the planned projects. However, he said, he doesn’t expect the number of children in the general area to grow significantly.

Several schools around Henderson Elementary also are underpopulated. HISD’s rezoning plan could help fill Pugh and Bruce elementary schools – each less than two miles from Henderson – though students could end up choosing to attend other campuses under the district’s transfer policy.

See here and here for the background on HISD’s plan. For this part of the plan, HISD would send Henderson students to two other nearby schools, both of which are also underpopulated. The problem is that the area has been steadily losing people for years now. I believe the Fifth Ward is ripe for the kind of redevelopment we’ve seen in Midtown and EaDo, but I have no idea what the timeframe is for that, and there’s no guarantee that will lead to an increase in the kid population. So I get why HISD is proposing these closures – as the Chron editorialized, the objective case is good, but community engagement has been sorely lacking. Even then, it’s a tough thing to close schools. The effect on a neighborhood where a couple hundred kids already attend a given school is profound and disruptive, and in this case is in conflict with the larger goal of attracting people back to that neighborhood. I’d like to know what an alternate plan, one that involves investing in these schools to entice students, perhaps students that don’t currently attend an HISD school, to enroll there might look like before I’d be willing to sign off on closing them.

HISD gets more diverse

Which in this case means it’s getting a little whiter.

After decades of free fall, Houston ISD’s white enrollment is inching upward, suggesting that more families with the resources to choose are selecting Houston public schools.

Enrollment of non-Hispanic white students in the Houston Independent School District bottomed out in 2010 at 15,340 students, or 7.6 percent of enrollment. White enrollment has increased by 13 percent since then, and today Houston ISD enrolls 17,313 white students, about 8.2 percent of a district that swelled to 210,000 with the recent absorption of neighboring North Forest, a predominantly African-American district.

Curbing so-called white flight is a major accomplishment for an urban school system, said Robert Sanborn, CEO of Children at Risk, a Houston-based nonprofit. Public schools are stronger when they reflect their city’s racial and economic diversity, he said. Roughly 25 percent of Houston’s population is white, meaning most white families continue to opt out of HISD.

“To me what’s remarkable is that we don’t show a loss like everybody else,” Sanborn said. “It’s absolutely counterintuitive.”

[…]

“It’s not a stampede, and it never has been, but it’s steady and it’s undeniable,” HISD school board member Harvin Moore said of the growing white enrollment.

Enrollment of Asian students also has increased each year since 2010; HISD now enrolls 7,401 Asians, or 3.5 percent of its overall student body.

I have kind of a distorted view of HISD, living as I do in the Heights. The article discusses how gentrification and the influx of new residents into the Heights, many of whom have kids and want them to attend neighborhood schools, has had a profound effect on the demography of Harvard Elementary School, but it could just as easily have used Travis Elementary as its example. I definitely agree with Bob Sanborn’s premise that public schools are better off when they more closely resemble the city they’re in. It’s not a good thing politically if you’ve got this large bloc of voters who feel like they have no stake in the schools, and therefore no real need to support them.

As it happens, Michael Li brought up this topic on Facebook the other day.

Remarkable stats: Of the nearly 11,000 ninth grade students in DISD, only 558 are Anglo. Of those Anglo ninth graders, a quarter go to just one school – Arts Magnet.

That makes DISD about five percent Anglo. Li got his stats from DISD’s public data portal. In a subsequent comment, he noted the percentage was even lower for fifth graders. Dallas County is less Anglo than Harris County is, but not by that much. Given the past history of official segregation in public schools, it’s more than a little unnerving to see such stark differences between the makeup of these school districts and the makeup of their larger communities. Thanks to the continued dynamism of Houston’s urban neighborhoods, HISD is bucking that trend. I hope that continues for awhile.

Pity the poor Hispanic Republicans

I’d say I feel sorry for them, but I don’t.

Every few years, I like to check in with Massey Villarreal to see if he’s still a Republican.

He still was on Thursday. But it’s getting harder all the time. The Houston businessman and former national chair of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly didn’t bother to hide his anger when we talked. The anti-immigrant rhetoric he was railing about years ago in bygone campaign seasons has found new life in his party’s primary race for lieutenant governor.

Villarreal and several other Hispanic GOP leaders are sickened by it.

“I have made the Kool-Aid for many years for other Hispanics to come into the party – I made the Kool-Aid and people drank it,” said Villarreal, who is also a former chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “And I refuse to make that kind of Kool-Aid anymore. Not for this party. Not for these leaders.”

For a party that desperately needs to appeal to Hispanic voters, a loudmouthed few among Republican candidates seem to be doing all they can to push the growing population of potential voters away.

Right now, the poster child of the loudmouths is state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has run a shockingly nativist campaign, even for Texas. He wasn’t the only candidate singing the “secure the border” mantra at the debate the other night. And all four lieutenant governor candidates want to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

But he has relentlessly tried to tie immigrants to violent crime, skewing numbers in the process, and he has waxed alarmist about alien “invasions.”

“I don’t know of one Hispanic Republican who isn’t appalled by Dan Patrick,” Villarreal wrote in an email that prompted me to call him. “If Dan Patrick wins, he will be the Pete Wilson of Texas.”

And if Patrick wins the March primary, Villarreal, the son of a Mexican immigrant, swears another state senator will get his vote for lieutenant governor: Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio.

Other Hispanic Republicans that Falkenberg talked to weren’t willing to go that far, because party affiliation is a powerful force. This isn’t the first time that Massey Villarreal has had a problem with a statewide Republican candidate, and again it’s over the issue of immigration. I guess that’s why Falkenberg keeps checking on him, because that situation isn’t getting any better at the national level or here in Texas. Redistricting plays a big role in this, because Congressional and legislative Republicans represent districts that are heavily white, so they have little electoral reason to listen to the concerns of Latinos. Of the 24 Congressional districts currently held by Republicans, only two have Latino citizen voting age populations (CVAPs) above 25% – CD27 (43.0%) and CD19 (26.5%). Only CD27 (49.4%) and CD22 (53.3%) have Anglo CVAPs less than 60%. It’s the same in the Senate, where Latino CVAP tops out among Republican districts at 28.0% (SD28) and Anglo CVAP bottoms out at 59.3% (SD17); Dan Patrick’s SD07 is at 17.9% and 62.1%, respectively. In the House, where turncoat Republican and top Democratic target JM Lozano’s HD43 has a Latino CVAP of 58.9% is there some variation, though not much beyond that. Just six others out of 95 total have Hispanic CVAPs above 30%, with only HD32 having an Anglo CVAP below 50%.

So the candidates are mainly trying to win the votes of the people in their districts, who vote in their primaries, and who don’t look or think like Massey Villarreal. It’s hardly just the Lite Guv candidates acting like this – the Republican candidates for Attorney General are just as bad, and as we know Greg Abbott just released his Extreme Border Security plan – though Patrick’s super-charged rhetoric, the high profile of the race, and the certainty of several more weeks of this insanity as it goes to a runoff have focused attention on these four. I don’t expect anything to change until more Republicans feel like they have to compete for Hispanic voters and not just their seething primary base, and I don’t expect that to happen until they start losing some elections they expected to win. The Lite Guv, Governor, and AG races here in Texas would be three great places for that trend to start. Your move, Massey and friends. Campos has more.

Livin’ small

Kids today and their crazy ideas about how to live.

The modern apartment is increasingly likely to look like this: a 380-square-foot space with a separate bedroom; a kitchen with fewer cabinets and more shelves; and a place in the garage to plug in an electric car.

“Things are changing quickly,” architect Mark Humphreys said last week during a webinar in which he and other industry experts presented their outlooks and new trends for the apartment market.

Units have been getting smaller as more 20-somethings – a key segment of the renter population – no longer want roommates or big pieces of furniture requiring large spaces.

“Millennials coming into apartments don’t own a whole lot other than technology,” said Doug Bibby, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council.

Several years ago, Humphreys designed a project in The Woodlands where the smallest units were 550 square feet. There’s now a waiting list to get one.

The floor plans with 380 square feet, known as “micro units,” are slowly making it to Houston. Humphreys designed some in a project in Katy, and he said there’s “no question” more will start to show up in the urban core.

It’s a trend he calls “the Manhattanization of the United States.”

I presume the main attraction of these smaller units is that they’re less expensive than larger ones. Smaller spaces are also easier to keep clean, but really, it’s going to be about cost. If this sort of trend catches on, it might make it economical to build reasonably affordable apartment units in popular parts of town. Of course, small spaces like this are likely to only really appeal to single people, but I figure there will be plenty of them. We’ll see how much this actually catches on.

Fort Worth and Tarrant County

Between Wendy Davis’ campaign for Governor, and the campaign to succeed Wendy Davis in SD10, there’s going to be a lot of attention focused on Forth Worth in the next twelve months.

The two scenes capture the split political personality that has emerged this year in Tarrant County — both the largest reliably Republican county in Texas and ground zero of Democrats’ efforts to turn the state blue. The county, home of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas’ fifth- and seventh-largest cities, Fort Worth and Arlington, has become a focal point in the state’s political future.

“Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso, San Antonio — all of these are blue; they’re all Democratic areas,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University. “Fort Worth is the last holdout Republicans have of the big cities.”

For most of the 20th century, Democrats dominated politics across Texas. Amid the Reagan revolution of the 1980s, Republicans made inroads in Tarrant County and elsewhere. By the mid-1990s, the Republican Party held a majority of the county’s political offices and was well on its way to overtaking the political landscape statewide.

“I lived in Tarrant County when just about every judge was a Democrat, so for us to not have even one Democratic judge does not speak well to our efforts,” Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples said.

[…]

In 2006, Democrats in neighboring Dallas County swept more than 40 local races, upending the county’s longstanding Republican leadership overnight. Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder, a Republican who has been active in the local party for decades, said Dallas Republicans got complacent.

“They were just coasting off the top of the ticket, and they never built a base,” Wilder said. “We don’t have that problem in Tarrant County.”

Indeed, Tarrant County’s geography has played a role in the area’s Republican dominance. Whereas many conservatives in Dallas and Houston left the cities for suburbs in neighboring counties, Tarrant County has retained many of those voters in smaller suburban cities in its northeast quadrant, an area in which Tea Party groups have moved the Republican Party further to the right in recent years.

“It is an upper-middle-class, professional part of Tarrant County,” Riddlesperger said. “Demographically, they look like the Tea Party does nationally.”

Let’s be clear about why Tarrant County is more Republican than the other major urban counties in Texas. Look at how Tarrant County and Fort Worth stack up against their peers:

County Population City Population City % ===================================================== El Paso 827,398 El Paso 672,538 81.3% Bexar 1,785,704 San Antonio 1,382,951 77.4% Travis 1,095,584 Austin 842,592 76.9% Harris 4,253,700 Houston 2,160,821 50.8% Dallas 2,453,843 Dallas 1,241,162 50.6% Tarrant 1,880,153 Fort Worth 777,992 41.3%

If you assume that the cities are generally more Democratic than the surrounding suburbs, then it’s easy to see why Tarrant lags behind the other big urban counties. There’s a lot of suburb to move into that’s still in Tarrant County if you want to flee from Fort Worth. To say that Tarrant County is Texas politics writ small is to say that Democrats are going to need to do better in the suburbs to be in a position to win.

Another way of looking at it:

County Anglo % ================= El Paso 13.7% Bexar 29.8% Dallas 32.2% Harris 32.2% Travis 50.1% Tarrant 50.7%

All figures from the Census webpage. Other than Travis County, which has the largest collection of Anglo Democrats in the state, counties that are majority Anglo tend to be majority Republican. I don’t know what the trend lines look like for Tarrant, but this will be something to keep an eye on.

Political observers have cited Tarrant County as a bellwether, arguing that if Democrats were to ever win the county again, it would be a sign that the state is poised to flip politically as well. But Republicans see nothing that will change Tarrant from red to blue in 2014. And Davis has been careful to frame her run as aimed at increasing Democratic turnout statewide and not specifically in her home county.

Nonetheless, her decision to base her campaign for governor in Fort Worth has energized Tarrant County Democrats. Battleground Texas, a Democratic group trying to make the state politically competitive again, has recently relocated some staff members to Fort Worth to coordinate better with Davis’s campaign.

[…]

Democrats do not plan to concede northeast Tarrant County to the Tea Party, Peoples said, though she acknowledged that area is probably the toughest to gain ground.

“Things are changing in northeast Tarrant County,” Peoples said. “They are changing much faster in the rest of the county.”

Dems don’t need to specifically flip Tarrant County to win statewide, but it’s unlikely they can win statewide if they don’t at least make gains in Tarrant County. It would be nice if there were some Democratic countywide candidates in Tarrant to help advance the ball, but that’s not looking so good right now. Be that as it may, in Tarrant and elsewhere Dems need to boost the Latino vote for sure, but they also need to do better among Anglo suburban voters, like the kind you find in Tarrant County. If Tarrant is a microcosm of Texas, it’s because it’s full of the kind of voters Dems need to do a better job of persuading.

Nate Silver takes another look at Texas

It’s always about the numbers.

Since President Obama’s re-election in 2012, Republicans have worried about what an increasingly diverse electorate will mean for their future as a national party. Democrats, meanwhile, have started talking about turning ruby red states like Arizona and Texas blue.

How worried should Republicans be? And how realistic are those Democratic aspirations? A new study released on Thursday — based on data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — points toward some answers: Republicans should be worried, but Democrats in Austin and Phoenix shouldn’t stock up on confetti just yet.

The study, from the left-leaning Center for American Progress, projects the growth in eligible voters in 12 states by 2014 and 2016. The projections — which broke down the eligible voter growth by race — show that fast-paced minority growth coupled with slow or negative growth among non-Hispanic whites has a substantial impact on the eligible voter makeup of the 12 states that the center examined.

According to the center’s projections, 600,000 Hispanics will be newly eligible to vote in Florida in 2016. Over the same period, fewer than 125,000 new white voters will be eligible in Florida. In Arizona, more than 175,000 Hispanics will enter the voter pool as roughly 10,000 white voters leave it. In Texas, 185,000 new white eligible voters will be overwhelmed by the roughly 900,000 Hispanics expected to enter the electorate.

[…]

So what would the 2012 presidential election have looked like with the more diverse electorate projected by the Center for American Progress? The impact is not as big as might be implied by the change in the eligible voter makeup.

The number of new, nonwhite eligible voters may be staggering, but not all those eligible voters actually go to the polls. There are not yet solid turnout rate estimates for these demographic groups for 2012 (that will come in the spring, when the Census Bureau publishes it biannual supplement on voting). But according to a Pew analysis of the Census Bureau’s report on the 2008 election, the turnout rate that year was 66 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 50 percent for Hispanics, 65 percent for blacks and 47 percent for Asian-Americans.

While there are indications that Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American turnout increased in 2012, it still lagged far behind that of non-Hispanic whites.

As a result, the fast-growing Hispanic and Asian-Americans communities continue to “punch below their weight.” For example, if a Democrat wins 70 percent of the Hispanic vote (roughly what Mr. Obama earned nationally in 2012) but just half of eligible Hispanics go to the polls, then a Democrat gains a net of only two votes over their Republican opponent for every 10 new eligible Hispanic voters.

So while demography is in the Democrats’ favor, the key to making real change happen sooner rather than later is to increase registration and participation rates. Which, coincidentally, happens to be the goal of Battleground Texas. Here’s BT head honcho Jeremy Bird talking about what they plan to do:

I previously suggested some metrics for Battleground Texas to see how they’re doing in preparation for 2016. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing their results. I’d also suggest that Dems aim to do at least a little better among white voters. It’s clear from the 2012 results that Obama slipped among them compared to 2008, and the kind of margins among white voters suggested by that Wilson Perkins poll from last year make the hill that much more steep. One possible explanation for Hillary Clinton’s favorable early poll numbers in Texas is that she does a lot better among white voters than Obama did. Outside of younger voters and single women, that’s not a focus for Battleground Texas, but it’s a factor to keep in mind anyway. Which is another way of saying that it’s really, really early to be thinking about this, and everything we’re talking about now could sound pretty foolish in three years’ time. Good thing no one ever remembers what anyone says on the Internet, right?

Children continue to be our future

The mother of all school finance lawsuits, which commenced on Monday, will take many weeks to conclude. I don’t expect to follow it every day since there’s just so much else going on, but I wanted to point out a couple of things from the Chron story of the trial’s opening day.

Dr. Steve Murdock

By 2050, Texas will be home for 12 million non-Hispanic whites and 31 million Hispanics, Murdock said. Hispanic children will make up nearly two-thirds of the state’s public school enrollment while the percentage of white children, now about 30 percent, will have dropped to 15.5 percent, said [Steve] Murdock, Texas’ first official state demographer.

[…]

About 8 percent of Texas’ non-Hispanic whites have less than a high school education compared with 40.4 percent among Hispanics, Murdock said.

Education remains the best single indicator for economic success, he emphasized. In 2010, one of every 10 Texas whites lived in poverty compared with more than one in 4 among Hispanics, Murdock said.

The state’s future depends on Hispanics since they will make up most of the population growth in the coming decades, he said.

“Their need is our need in the sense that how well minority population groups do in Texas is how well Texas will do,” Murdock said.

Murdock has been singing this song for well over a decade now, but especially in the last legislative session it was clear that no one who had any power to do something about it was paying attention. Here’s an interview I did with Dr. Murdock last year – if you ever get the chance to talk to him or to hear him speak, I highly recommend it – and you can browse my archives for more of his greatest hits. I feel certain that someday there will be broad consensus that he was right all along. i just hope it isn’t too late to do something about it by then.

White non-Hispanic children made up 75 percent of Humble ISD’s school enrollment 12 years ago. Today, white children are a minority at 46 percent and the percentage of low-income children has increased from 15.9 percent to 35 percent.

“Virtually everything (Murdock’s) data showed is the experience we have had in our community,” Humble ISD Superintendent Guy Sconzo said.

[…]

Humble ISD taxpayers approved a maximum school operations tax rate of $1.17 for the 2008-09 school year that generated an extra $17.9 million per year – but the district then lost $24.2 million when state lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from public education last year.

“In one fell swoop that (local tax) revenue went away,” Sconzo said.

As the Trib noted in its look back at a decade of Republican control of Texas, the GOP has largely attempted to control costs in the state budget by pushing them down to the local level. Sconzo’s words attest to that reality. I keep thinking that a day of reckoning will come when places like Humble to which people fled in order to have access to better schools for their kids can no longer provide the kind of education experience these people expected. It hasn’t happened yet on a wide scale, though there have been isolated victories and there are signs this year of it as some Republicans who voted for the vicious cuts to public education now try to run away from them, but I still believe it’s inevitable, and that the 2013 legislative session may hasten it for 2014. Put simply, the course we’re on is unsustainable. Something has to give.

The demographics of jury service

Why is it that juries in Harris County tend to not reflect the demography of the county as a whole? District Clerk Chris Daniel explains why in a recent Chron op-ed. If you’re familiar with the concept of “citizen voting age population” (CVAP), you will likely nod your head as you read it. This isn’t everything – who responds to jury summonses, and who gets picked (and who gets eliminated) by the lawyers during voir dire has something to do with it as well – but it’s a significant factor. It’s also something we should ensure changes over time, as the currently-young Latino population grows up.

On a tangential note, Greg gives us another look at the distribution of Latino registered voters in Harris County. It’s a different topic but the same underlying dynamic, and another thing we should observe over time to see how it changes. In each case, if the change observed is significantly different from what one might reasonably predict to happen, it’s an indicator that something has very likely gone wrong.

How cool are we?

Way cool, apparently.

Houston is known for many things: Oil, NASA, urban sprawl and business-friendly policies. But the Texas city deserves to be known for something else: coolness.

The Bayou City may not be the first place you associate with being hip or trendy. But Houston has something many other major cities don’t: jobs. With the local economy humming through the recession, Houston enjoyed 2.6% job growth last year and nearly 50,000 Americans flocked there in response — particularly young professionals. In fact, the median age of a Houston resident is a youthful 33.

The result? Over the past decade, the dreary corporate cityscape has been quietly transforming. Stylish housing developments have popped up downtown, restaurants have taken up residence in former factories and art galleries like the Station Museum have been inhabiting warehouses.

Combine that with a strong theater scene, world-class museums and a multicultural, zoning-free mashup of a streetscape and you have the recipe for the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ list of America’s Coolest Cities To Live.

I like the fact that it remains the case that national media outlets are incapable of saying something nice about Houston in a non-backhanded manner. I wouldn’t know what to do with unqualified adulation. Forbes is comparing MSAs, so this isn’t just Houston but the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land MSA, so make of it what you will. The Statesman tries to put a positive spin on things for Austin, and Hair Balls, TM Daily Post, CultureMap, and Mean Green Cougar Red have more.

Ten things you should know about the demographics of Texas

From the Center for American Progress:

1. Communities of color are driving population growth in Texas. Texas is one of five states in the country where people of color make up the majority of the population. Between 2000 and 2009 Hispanic population growth accounted for 63.1 percent of all growth in the state. Texas’s black and Asian populations—2.8 million people and 850,000 people, respectively—were the third largest in the country in 2010.

2. The majority of children in Texas are children of color. For children under age 5 in the state, children of color outnumbered non-Hispanic white children 2.2-to-1 in 2011. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, in 2009, 64 percent of the state’s children were of color.

3. Houston is the most racially and ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the country. According to a report from Rice University, the percentage of Latinos in the region increased dramatically from 20.8 percent in 1990 to more than one-third at 35.5 percent in 2010. This thriving racial and ethnic diversity places Houston at the head of the state’s rapid demographic changes.

4. Nearly a third of immigrants in Texas are naturalized—meaning they are eligible to vote. In 2010 immigrants comprised 16.4 percent of the state’s total population. That year there were 1.3 million naturalized U.S. citizens in Texas, approximately 32 percent of immigrants in the state.

5. Voters of color make up a growing portion of the Texas electorate. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos accounted for 20.1 percent of Texas voters in the 2008 elections. African Americans and Asians comprised 14.2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, of the state’s voters that same year.

6. Even more Latinos are eligible to vote but are currently unregistered.According to the political opinion research group Latino Decisions, there are 2.1 millionunregistered Latino voters in Texas in 2012. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that there are an additional 880,000 legal permanent residents (green card holders) in Texas who are eligible to naturalize and vote for the first time. Put together, this means Texas has close to an extra 3 million potential voters this fall.

7. The Department of Justice blocked a Texas voter ID law that threatened to disenfranchise Hispanics. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, far fewer non-Hispanic voters—4.3 percent, compared with 6.3 percent of Latino voters—lack a proper photo ID, which voters would have been required to show under the law. Texas’s own state data listed 174,866 registered Latino voters without an ID.

8. Communities of color add billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Texas’s economy through entrepreneurship and spending. The purchasing power of Latinos in Texas increased more than 400 percent from 1990 to 2010, reaching a total of$176.3 billion. Asian buying power increased by more than 650 percent in the same period to a total of $34.4 billion. And in 2007 Texas’s nearly 450,000 Latino-owned businesses had close to 400,000 employees, and sales and receipts of $61.9 billion.

9. Immigrants are essential to the economy as workers. In 2010 immigrants comprised 20.9 percent of Texas’s workforce. As of 2007, 21 percent of Houston’s total economic output and 16 percent of Dallas’s economic output was derived from immigrants.

10. Immigrants contribute to the state economy through state and local taxes. In 2010, according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants in Texas paid $1.6 billion in state and local taxes.

Just some things to keep in mind. Via Stace and PDiddie.

The face of the country continues to change

This is our future.

For the first time, as of 2011, more than half of the children under age 1 in the U.S. were minorities, the newest benchmark illustrating the widening age gap between mostly white, older Americans and fast-growing, younger minority populations, particularly Hispanics.

Minorities under age 1 eclipsed 50 percent (50.4 percent), from a 49.5 percent level recorded by the 2010 census.

“The growth in minority populations is a national phenomenon,” said Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. “That is different from a couple of decades ago, when we would have seen much more of it in Texas and California and in states with significant Hispanic populations.”

In Texas, nearly 7 in 10 people under age 1 were minorities as of July 2011, a slight increase from 2010, according to new census estimates out today. The data, covering the period from April 2010 to July 2011, are the first set of population estimates by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex since the decennial census. The Census Bureau said it defines a minority as anyone who is not single-race white.

Demographers have said for some time now that they expect racial and ethnic minorities will become the U.S. majority by midcentury. Texas became a majority-minority state in 2004, and in 2010, Hispanics accounted for 65 percent of the state’s growth since 2000.

Here’s the Census Bureau press release, which has all of the relevant data. Here also is an interview I did with Steve Murdock last year. He’s been talking for a long time about these changes that are coming, how Texas has been on the leading edge with the country following behind, and how we are failing the future by not adequately providing for its education. The longer we take to properly address that, the larger the cost of our indifference will be. Adam Serwer, NewsTaco, and the Trib have more.

Always in motion the future is

That won’t stop some people from trying to predict it.

Back...to the future!

A Houston think tank has seen the city’s future. Make that two futures.

One version shows the Houston metropolitan area in 2040 as beginning to grow after decades of economic stagnation, focused on improving the environment, education and quality of life, paid for through higher taxes.

The second hypothetical Houston is a hard-charging economic power, doubling in size over the previous 30 years but also split by stark disparities between rich and poor.

The two scenarios from the Center for Houston’s Future are intended to inform the debate over decisions the region faces in coming decades.

“We’re not saying one is good or bad,” said James Calaway, the center’s chairman. “We’re giving leadership things to think about.”

[…]

In the first scenario, “Learning to Live,” the eight-county region has had two decades of slow growth and political instability, buffeted by businesses moving away and declining educational levels.

By 2040, the population had reached 7 million – up just 1 million from current estimates – and residents had agreed to higher taxes and other efforts to improve education. The result was a better quality of life, with cleaner air, more green spaces and better public transportation.

The second scenario, “Playing to Win,” describes a region of 12 million people, boosted by a pro-business climate and an economy based on energy, health care, the port and water reclamation and desalination efforts along the coast.

Companies recruit from around the world while the home-grown workforce suffers from a lack of education and training. The wealthy live in gated enclaves, the poor in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

“For some the region represents boundless opportunity and a quality of life beyond what they could find elsewhere,” this scenario concludes. “For others … access to opportunity is limited and the future is unclear.”

Don’t know that I’d consider either of those scenarios to be particularly appealing, but maybe I’m just not getting it. You can see it all here, and come up with your own scenarios if you’re into that sort of thing.

Our diverse region

Cool.

The Houston region is now the most ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the country, surpassing New York City.

Two suburbs – Missouri City and Pearland – have become even more diverse than the city of Houston. Other suburbs aren’t far behind.

These findings are from a report released Monday by Rice University researchers, based on an analysis of census data from 1990, 2000 and 2010.

“We are a little United Nations,” Pearland Mayor Tom Reid said. “You go to one of our neighborhoods, and there will be a person from Nigeria living next to somebody from India, living next to somebody from Mexico and somebody from Louisiana.”

The report also found that while residential segregation has dropped over the past 20 years, it remains highest within the city of Houston; most suburban neighborhoods are less racially segregated.

Report co-author Michael Emerson, co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice, said poverty, aging housing and larger concentrations of minority groups all contribute to continued segregation in Houston.

New neighborhoods often attract people from a range of racial and ethnic groups, he said. “There’s no history that says, ‘You can’t come here.’ ”

Greg addresses that point.

Obviously, some of what leads to remnant segregation of Houstonians is that you have major parts of town fully developed and that have had multiple generations living in close proximity. So it seems logical that some areas of Third Ward and River Oaks would remain as they are. And as you build up undeveloped areas around those parts of town, the pool of buyers is generally going to be more diverse. That’s why you see pockets of Hispanic neighborhoods near Katy and newer Asian home-buyers filling in the area between Alief and Sugar Land, as well as between Alief and Willowbrook Mall. The fact that there was plenty of open space to develop creates this, in other words.

Greg has time series demographic maps to show how the region has changed over the last 30 years. It’s my observation that we’re going to start to see some of this change being driven in the older African-American neighborhoods like the Fifth Ward as well. That area has been losing population over the years, and as that happens more space opens up, which along with its proximity to downtown will begin to make it more attractive to developers looking for affordable parcels of land. In some other places, open space has been there all along but has not been used. Go drive Hiram Clarke from US90 to Fuqua to see what I mean. In another 20 years, I think we’ll see quite a bit more change. The full Kinder Institute report is here if you want more.

The Fifth Ward

Lisa Gray writes about a popular art project making a reappearance in a new place.

Six years ago, the white guys – Dan Havel and Dean Ruck – smashed up a couple of other bungalows, and in the process, created Inversion, one of the most astounding of pieces of art that Houston had ever seen. A giant horizontal vortex, made from the bungalows’ own wood siding, seemed to rip through the houses – a sight that literally stopped traffic on Montrose Boulevard.

It was public art that the public loved. People who never set foot in galleries asked their neighbors whether they’d seen it. Parents snapped photos of their kids crawling into the funnel’s mouth; dog owners snapped photos of their mutts peeking out the little hole at its tail. Pranksters stuck Realtors’ signs out front. Inversion appeared on Christmas cards, newspapers, magazines and the TV news. And naturally, it was a Web sensation.

But it was easy, too, to read meaning into the spectacle. Montrose, like other neighborhoods, was gentrifying fast. Its bungalows and other old houses were disappearing; townhouses and highrises seemed to appear overnight, out of nowhere. The time-space continuum seemed in flux. The past was being sucked into the future. A vortex was ripping through.

[…]

Fifth Ward Jam, as Havel and Ruck call the piece they recently finished, isn’t at all a copy of Inversion. Jam is made from one bungalow instead of two, and it has multiple vortexes, not just one. In front of all the wooden chaos, there’s an area that could serve as a stage. But anyone who remembers Inversion will immediately recognize Jam as its kin.

The main difference, really, is the site: The Fifth Ward is wildly different from arty, gentrifying Montrose. In the past decades, change has crept in, here and there – a new-ish apartment complex sits directly across Lyons Avenue from Jam – but the neighborhood remains much the same: mostly African American, mostly poor. Weedy lots and vacant houses are problems here; gentrification and whirlwind change are not.

One of the things I like about doing candidate interviews is that they give me an opportunity to visit different parts of the city. To interview the candidates in District B, I made several visits into the Fifth Ward, which is a neighborhood I can’t honestly say I’d been to before. One of these interviews took me past Fifth Ward Jam, which was cool to see. But what really struck me as I drove around was how close this all was to downtown. Gentrification and whirlwind change may not be a part of the Fifth Ward today, but I think it’s inevitable, and frankly is probably just around the corner. If you look at the neighborhoods surrounding downtown, it’s what’s left for redevelopment. The Heights, the Washington corridor, Neartown, the Museum District, Montrose, and Midtown are all pretty much built out – for sure there’s little if any cheap property available in any of them. EaDo and the Near Northside are getting there. But east of 59 and north of I-10, it’s as Gray describes it. If you’re a real estate developer, you’ve got to see the potential there.

And, while I get what Gray is saying about an absence of change in the Fifth Ward, the Census number suggest otherwise. Take a look at the demographics of the neighborhood and how they compare to a decade ago:

------------------------------------------------------------------ Hispanic Afr-Am Asian Anglo Tot. Pop ------------------------------------------------------------------ 2000 7,943 (36.3%) 13,464 (61.5%) 62 (0.3%) 327 (1.5%) 21,879 2010 8,735 (45.3%) 9,739 (50.5%) 85 (0.4%) 556 (2.9%) 19,288

That’s quite a bit of change. In particular, I find the drop in the number of African-American residents stunning. The fact that the population declined overall, by more than ten percent, is further evidence to me that the area is ripe for redevelopment. Who’s going to be there to resist it?

Just so we’re all clear, the data above refer to the highlighted area in this map:

The Fifth Ward

The yellow area at the southern end is Census Tract 2114, and it’s likely a leading indicator for the Fifth Ward as a whole:

Tract 2114 -------------------------------------------------------------------- Hispanic Afr-Am Asian Anglo Tot. Pop. -------------------------------------------------------------------- 1980 421 ( 8.2%) 4,664 (90.8%) 10 (0.2%) 36 (0.7%) 5,137 1990 554 (14.4%) 3,228 (84.2%) 28 (0.7%) 24 (0.6%) 3,837 2000 921 (25.4%) 2,609 (72.1%) 17 (0.5%) 59 (1.6%) 3,620 2010 1,310 (35.5%) 1,986 (53.8%) 70 (1.9%) 288 (7.8%) 3,690

Note the jump in Anglo population, which while still quite small in absolute terms seems likely to grow, as this portion of the Fifth Ward abuts and arguably overlaps EaDo. As with the greater Fifth Ward, the African-American population has dropped off considerably, while the Hispanic population has increased, though not nearly enough to make up for the African-American decline. It will be very interesting to see how the population mix in this area changes over the next decade. Speaking of which, here’s a comparison of the Fifth Ward’s demography from 1980 and 2010:

Fifth Ward 1980

Fifth Ward 2010

Areas with an African-American majority are colored black in the maps above; those with a Hispanic majority are brown, with an Anglo majority are red, and with no majority are either yellow or green, depending on your monitor settings. Like I said, this area has already seen a lot of change, more than you might have thought if your frame of reference is like mine. I believe this change will be more visible to those of us who do not live there in the coming years.

All Census data and images come courtesy of Greg Wythe, whose wizardry in these matters regularly amazes me. My sincere thanks to him for helping me illustrate the point I wanted to make. Finally, on a side note, Robert Boyd highlights another eye-catching piece of art in the Fifth Ward, and JR Gonzales has some excellent photos of the area from the 1950s. Check ’em out.

Brown versus gray

This is an old, familiar story, but it really can’t be said often enough:

When Gov. Rick Perry showed up in San Antonio earlier this summer to deliver brief remarks to the annual gathering of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, he sauntered inadvertently into a demographic dispute of epic proportions.

The courteous but cool reception the governor got that day was yet another manifestation of a tussle that regularly roiled the recent legislative session in Austin and one that will, in part, shape the coming presidential contest. Certainly, it will shape Texas politics for the foreseeable future.

Former state demographer Steven Murdock, now director of Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, says the reason Perry was received less than enthusiastically by the officially nonpartisan group was not simply a matter of liberal versus conservative, brown versus white or Republican versus Democrat. The tension in the hotel ballroom had its roots in a deeper demographic split, he says, one between the old and the young. The old happen to be predominantly Anglo, the young predominantly Hispanic.

The political divide between the two groups is stark. In a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this year, only 23 percent of white seniors said they preferred a larger government that offers more services; 61 percent preferred a smaller government that offers fewer services. Among minorities, the percentages were reversed: 62 percent preferred a larger government, 28 percent a smaller one.

Murdock, who also participated in the NALEO conference, maintains that the two forces represented that day in San Antonio actually depend on each other more than either usually acknowledges. How — or whether — they work out a rapprochement will have a powerful effect on the economic and social future of Texas and the nation.

“There’s a wonderful argument about the need for an inter-generational compact,” says Murdock’s Rice colleague, Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor, who for three decades has directed the Houston Area Survey. “The aging baby boomers who are moving into retirement, 76 million babies born during that incredible period 1946 to 1964, have a stake in making sure that these Latino and African-American kids are well-educated to get the good jobs and are well-paid — so that we can tax the daylights out of them.”

As I have done many times before, I will quote Steve Murdock, who has been singing from this hymnal for years now:

By [20]23 or [20]24, we’re talking about three out of every four Texas workers being non-Anglo. I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I’m going to have—fire, police, and other services—depend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.

I’d say that unfortunately, the aging Anglo population is doing a fine job of forgetting this. And we’ll all pay for it down the line. See Greg for more on a related story.

Old neighborhoods, new faces

Really interesting story about the changing faces of a couple of Houston’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

There are now almost as many Latino residents as African-Americans in Independence Heights. At the same time, there are fewer African-American children there and in other historic black neighborhoods, even when the number of African-American adults has grown.

“There’s a lot of chitter-chatter about what that means,” said Roynell Young, a former All-Pro cornerback who runs a charter school in Sunnyside. “What I do know is, you take what you have and grow it. It’s the quality of what you produce that is important.”

Decades after segregation faded in public schools and workplaces, residential neighborhoods have been slower to change. Even as people moved away from historically black neighborhoods, churches and other institutions kept them at the center of civic engagement.

But neighborhoods, like the people who inhabit them, don’t stand still.

“We are born, we grow up, we get old,” said Sheri L. Smith, who teaches urban planning at Texas Southern University. “Communities do the same thing.”

Longtime residents may resist change. “But if you move out, someone else moves in, and they’re not responsible for your memories,” she said.

I met a couple of people over the weekend who had just moved here from Brooklyn. When I told them I was from Staten Island, one of them asked me which neighborhood. I actually had to think about it for a second before I answered, because it had been so long since anyone had asked me that question. My neighborhood on Staten Island – West Brighton, for the record – and most of the neighborhoods around it were like Sunnyside and Independence Heights when I was a kid in that they stayed the same for a long time. People lived their whole lives there, and knew who everybody was. Both my father’s parents lived in the same ZIP code till the day they died. I’m not certain, but I’d bet the same was true of my mother’s father, and outside of a couple of years at the end when she was in an assisted living facility in Seattle near her son, the same was probably true of her mother. It was true for my parents until 1999, when they moved west.

It’s not true any more, at least in my family as all us kids settled elsewhere. Through various reconnections I’ve made on Facebook, I know there’s still some of my old friends there, but many have left. I suspect some of it is generational – people nowadays are more accustomed to the idea of moving away – and some of it is just how society in general is these days – modern careers are much less conducive to staying in one place forever. I haven’t been back to Staten Island in over a decade, so I can’t say for myself how much it has changed since I stopped visiting regularly. I definitely plan to take the girls to visit there in the next few years, and we’ll see how I perceive it from the perspective of fatherhood and connecting to my roots. I suspect it will be a very different experience.

On a side note, I will say that the place in Texas that is most strongly reminiscent of Staten Island to me is Galveston. Island communities, where the boundaries are clearly demarcated and there’s a big difference between being born there and not being born there, are just different. Paul Burka wrote a story about his ancestral home town awhile back for Texas Monthly, and I remember thinking as I read it that someone could write a very similar story about mine. Maybe some day I will.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to get all nostalgic on you, but that’s what this story triggered in me. It’s worth your time to read even if it’s not likely to have the same effect on you. Greg has more.

West Texas

Not many people want to live in West Texas any more.

The 2010 Census confirmed what anyone passing through the scrublands of West Texas already knew: People are leaving, and no one is taking their place, even with oil at more than $100 a barrel. The people who remain often drive an hour or more to visit a doctor, buy a pair of jeans or see a movie.

So you might wonder why anyone is still there, in this place where natural beauty is defined by dry creek beds and scraggly mesquite, where public transit is a school bus and Starbucks is a punch line.

“The greatest sunsets. The stars are just right there. You hear the coyotes howling,” says Billy Burt Hopper, sheriff of Loving County, home to 82 people and the least-populated county in the United States.

“It’s the last frontier.”

Texas recorded the largest population growth in the nation over the past decade, adding 4.5 million people for a total of 25.1 million. But 79 of its 254 counties lost people, all but a handful of them west of Interstate 35. Even more would have lost population if not for the decade’s phenomenal Latino growth; the number of Anglos declined in 162 Texas counties, including much of West Texas and the Panhandle.

The shift to the state’s cities and suburbs has been happening since at least the 1960s, as people died or moved away from the vast emptiness of the west and the endless stretches of the Panhandle.

I’m a city boy, so that kind of lifestyle has no appeal to me, but to each their own. I just wonder what the minimum population level for sustainability is. Will we look back in 20 or 30 years and see that some of these towns no longer exist because it became practically impossible to live there? The school districts out there are heavily threatened by the budget cuts. What happens if some of them fall apart as a result?

Interview with Steve Murdock

Dr. Steve Murdock is a former State Demographer of Texas and director of the US Census, now the founding Director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. He’s the man to go to if you want to know about demography in Texas, and since that’s both something that interests me and is also very much in the news between the Census and the legislative session, I figured now was an excellent time to have a conversation with him about these things. Here’s what we discussed:

Download the MP3 file

It’s a long conversation, but I hope you’ll find it as interesting and informative as I did. Whatever the Lege chooses to do this session, they and we can’t say we didn’t know any better.

Infill growth

Anyone who’s been watching Washington Avenue has seen this.

From downtown through midtown and along Washington Avenue, a population growth spurt has taken off since 2000.

One buzz word to describe what’s going on is “infill,” said Jerry Wood, previously Houston’s deputy assistant director for planning and development and now an independent consultant advising the city on census issues.

Wood said that infill, or the use of vacant land in an otherwise built-up area, has happened in such neighborhoods as Rice Military (between Westcott and Shepherd south of Washington), First Ward (near Houston Avenue north of Washington) and Cottage Grove (both sides of Interstate 10, between Shepherd and Hempstead Highway).

“In Cottage Grove, three-and four-story townhouses are replacing bungalows at a high rate,” Wood said. “That’s been true throughout that ZIP code.

They’re also replacing a lot of empty lots and vacant buildings. The growth in that part of town is astonishing, and for the most part good. The main downside, as noted in the story, is that the infrastructure has not come close to keeping up. Most of the streets parallel to Washington are very narrow, with no sidewalks and drainage ditches. Parking is a big problem, and there’s often no room for cars driving in opposite directions to get past each other. (Yes, this includes all of the streets around the Wal-Mart site.) The area desperately needs a comprehensive transportation solution to help deal with this.

The print version of this story had a chart listing population change in several area ZIP codes. Here’s a reproduction of that:

ZIP Code 2000 Pop 2010 Pop % Change ========================================= 77002 13,159 16,885 28% 77003 9,137 10,168 11% 77006 18,861 19,337 3% 77007 22,619 30,538 35% 77008 28,661 30,502 6% 77009 42,474 38,172 -10% 77010 76 366 382% 77018 27,094 25,804 -5% 77019 15,871 18,946 19% 77098 12,355 13,508 9% Total 190,307 204,226 7%

77010 is a tiny area, just a few blocks, on the east side of downtown; Google Maps centers it on Discovery Green, which says to me that the population growth there is likely the result of the One Park Place tower. 77002 is the rest of downtown and a little bit of midtown; if you picture the area in the middle of the Loop that’s bounded by 45, 59, I-10, that’s more or less 77002. 77007 is basically Super Neighborhood 22, which is the main focus of the story. 77019 is River Oaks/north Montrose and most of Midtown, and which includes Estates at Memorial, while 77098 includes 2727 Kirby. Finally, 77003 is EaDo and the Harrisburg area, which I’ll bet shows double digit growth in the next Census as well.

What’s truly curious to me is the two ZIP codes that show negative growth. 77009 is all of the Heights plus a roughly equivalent area east of I-45, which includes places like the Near Northside and Lindale Park. I’ll admit to not being as familiar with the eastern half of the area as the western part, but I cannot fathom it losing over four thousand people this decade. I see fewer vacant lots, not more, and the gentrification of the Heights has brought a little baby boom with it. 77018 is more or less Garden Oaks/Oak Forest, and while its loss is smaller, I don’t understand it, either.

One possible clue to what’s happening may be in the other way the data was presented, in terms of the ethnic makeup of these areas:

Ethnicity 2000 Pop 2010 Pop % Change ========================================= White 84,281 101,825 21% Hispanic 82,379 71,076 -14% Black 18,084 20,470 13% Asian 3,113 7,199 131%

The increase in white population is easy to believe, as is the increase in Asians. It’s the decline in the Hispanic population that’s strange. You can see a graphic representation of this for the whole county at Greg’s place. Obviously, some of the Latino growth in the burbs is fueled by inner city folks moving outward in search of affordable houses and better schools. I have to wonder if some of it is also due to insufficient participation in the Census. All I can say is that I just don’t believe 77009 lost ten percent of its people. I hope a review of the Census process leads to an adjustment of these numbers.

This ain’t your daddy’s Plano any more

Demographic change comes to Texas’ iconic suburb.

Recent controversy over whether and where to build a large homeless housing complex is the latest evidence of Plano’s two faces. The nonprofit Samaritan Inn of McKinney last week withdrew a zoning request to build the shelter because of neighbors’ complaints and undertones that the facility would hurt the city’s image.

Many of Plano’s leaders agreed the project is needed. But beneath the surface brews a feeling that Plano faces an identity crisis.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time. And now it’s here,” Plano Mayor Phil Dyer said. “Plano has changed from the perception that it is a well-to-do, all-white community. … We need to talk about Plano as it is in 2010.”

[…]

Some 273,000 people now live in Plano, meaning that the city now rivals Buffalo, N.Y.; Norfolk, Va.; and St. Paul, Minn., in its population.

A quarter of Plano’s population is nonwhite. That is up from a fifth just a decade ago, according to the most recent census statistics.

Plano’s Asian population, 14.4 percent, is three times larger than the national average (4.4 percent). Nearly a third of its residents speak a language other than English at home, according to census data from 2008. That is up from 22 percent in 2000.

Moreover, the gap has widened between rich and poor residents. Plano’s poverty rate has risen from 4.3 percent to 6 percent in the last decade even as incomes have risen.

Reading this reminded me of a Houston Press story about the homeless in Fort Bend County, and the ways that the county was in denial about it at the time. Add in to that the fact that Collin County is becoming a haven for retirees, and you’ve got a recipe for some interesting times ahead.

The retirees of Collin County

I too think of Collin County as a place that primarily attracts young people with its cheap real estate and all, but apparently that’s quite attractive to older folks, too.

Affordable living, jobs and a Sun Belt climate have made Texas one of the most attractive states for baby boomers. As America’s “first suburban generation” ages, cities are scrambling to accommodate them.

Collin County will feel one of the greatest effects in the region, with its senior population more than doubling in the next decade. But the county – known for its youth rather than its elderly – already struggles with transportation, health care and affordable housing for its seniors. Cities that fail to reshuffle priorities, experts say, face strapped social services, budget pitfalls, disgruntled residents and tarnished images.

“For the most part, communities are not planning as well as they should be,” said Doni Van Ryswyk, aging program manager at the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Area Agency on Aging. “There’s a whole host of challenges in terms of infrastructure, livable communities and adequate transportation providers for people who are no longer able to drive.

“Even though Collin and Denton counties are relatively wealthy, there are portions that are already designated health professional shortages. That’s only going to get worse as the population ages.”

To say the least, Collin County is chintzy about public health. One presumes that sooner or later, something’s gotta give. In the meantime, this is an interesting trend to keep an eye on.

We keep on growing

Don’t know how much longer we can or will keep this up, but the Houston metropolitan area just keeps growing like gangbusters.

The Houston metropolitan area added more than 130,000 residents between July 1, 2007 and July 1, 2008, the second-highest number in the country after Dallas-Fort Worth, the bureau said. Among counties, Harris County added more than 72,000 people, trailing only Maricopa County, Ariz., in growth in sheer numbers.

In percentage terms, the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area posted 3.8 percent growth, the nation’s second-highest behind Raleigh-Cary, N.C., with 4.3 percent.

Four Texas counties, all in the Austin or Dallas-Fort Worth areas, were among the top 10 in growth rates. Fort Bend County ranked 14th with 4.8 percent growth.

This would be why Texas is getting at least three more Congressional seats in 2011, and why those seats will be going to the Metroplex, Central Texas, and here.

Jobs were the key to the Texas population gains, said Karl Eschbach, the state demographer.

“The particular edge that metro Texas had is that places like Houston were adding jobs at the beginning of the year when most of the rest of the country had slowed or stopped job creation, so Texas employers had a window where they were hiring while others elsewhere were laying off,” Eschbach said.

In 2008, Eschbach said, Texas was one of only six U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia, that experienced job growth. The other states that added jobs were far less populous.

But Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that jobs in Texas have begun to contract this year, making expected population trends for Texas metropolitan areas less clear, he said. While natural increase — births minus deaths — likely will remain stable, it’s possible that migration into Texas from other countries and states will decline as the state’s attraction as a job center diminishes, Eschbach said.

“Population movement occurs because of job creation; that’s not the only thing, but it’s the big thing,” he said. “When there are no jobs available anywhere, why move?”

The economy here is a lot more diverse than it once was, but I have a feeling that until the energy industry rebounds, we’ll fall back to the pack a bit. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects the population growth rate in the interim.

Our Hispanic future

It’s happening now.

In a new report on population trends in public schools, the Texas Education Agency reports that Texas now enrolls 130,000 fewer white children than 10 years ago.

For the first time, Hispanic children dominate first-grade classes, adding about 4,000 children last year to become the outright majority with 50.2 percent of students.

But Hispanic children would have become dominant without even one new student, because white first-grade enrollment dropped by about 2,000.

White children are now fewer than one-third of the first-graders in Texas.

If this is a surprise to us, it’s not one to Karl Eschbach of the University of Texas-San Antonio, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry as the official state demographer.

“What people don’t realize is the sheer inevitability of this change,” Eschbach said Friday.

It isn’t about immigration, he said. It’s about native-born Texan and American children growing up.

Some white conservatives — not all of them but certainly all the ones with radio shows — fear the “Latinization” of Texas. No reason to fear.

“It’s already happened,” Eschbach said.

In Harris County, the tipping point was two years ago, when Hispanics became the plurality. The state of Texas is still predominantly white, but not majority white, not since 2003.

“If the state is going to be healthy, we have to invest in children,” Eschbach said, repeating part of the presentation he gives across the state. “We have to invest in education. We have to invest in preparing children for a global economy.”

In other words, Texas’ future depends on how well we prepare today’s minority children.

Eschbach was blunt.

“The children who don’t ‘look like us’ will have the greatest say in the state’s future success,” he said.

He sounds a lot like his predecessor, Steve Murdock. Maybe one of these years we’ll actually start listening to these guys.