Notice: Fort Worth City Council Redistricting Public Hearing coming up Tuesday evening, 7 p.m.., October 18 at City Hall, 1000 Throckmorton, Council Chamber. Topic: Adding two more council seats to the 8-1 plan in place since 1975.
Fort Worth’s population, according to the 2010 census, is more than 56 percent minority: 18.2 percent black, 3.7 percent Asian and 34.1 percent Hispanic, with 42.9 percent white. Its entire population is 742,000, an increase of more than 38 percent since the 2000 census (and the largest population increase in any Texas city.) In 1975 when the current council districts were set up, whites were in the majority and the population was 400,000. Yet, with minorities now the majority, Anglos still hold the most number of seats on the nine-member council: six whites, two blacks and one Hispanic.
To folks like Fernando Florez, redistricting chair of the United Hispanic Council of Tarrant County, adding two more council seats in a city that has almost doubled in population in 35 years is a no-brainer.
He and other minority leaders are calling for a 10-1 plan that will redraw the current map and add districts with heavy minority populations in order for those folks to have a better chance to elect representatives who more closely identify with their needs. In redistricting language as upheld by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, such districts are known as “communities of interest” and the courts have largely held that the Act is written to allow such communities a fair shot at equal representation.
The council will hear citizens tomorrow night and vote on a new 10-1 plan in November. Currently a majority of the council is opposed, Florez said, raising this question: “Should the incumbents’ top priority be to protect their own turf or to better serve the public interest?”
To Florez, the answer is clear given the surge in the population of Fort Worth since 1975 when the 8-1 plan was adopted. “To continue with an 8-1 system will result in too large a population in each district to provide effective representation and will lead to inefficient governance,” he said.
Plus, once again, minority populations will be the losers. And that could lead to a lawsuit by the Hispanic Council, which is already threatening to sue the Fort Worth ISD unless its redistricting plan fairly represents the increase in the minority population in the school district.
Florez can be reached at (817)239-0578, firstname.lastname@example.org