Tarrant County commissioners OK preliminary redistricting map

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 02, 2011

By Steve Campbell


FORT WORTH -- After a "little final tweaking" and some political horse trading, Tarrant County commissioners approved a preliminary redistricting map Tuesday that makes only minor changes to their four precincts.

The biggest impact came in fast-growing Northeast Tarrant County, where Republican Commissioner Gary Fickes will lose about 37,000 people in his heavily GOP Precinct 3, which had grown to a population of 485,000.

"It looks like everybody was picking on me," Fickes said jokingly.

"In the southeast section of my precinct I primarily gave up more Democrats than Republicans, and that made me happy," he said. He noted that he did lose some majority GOP voting precincts in north Fort Worth to Commissioner J.D. Johnson's Precinct 4, which covers the northwest quadrant of the county.

"But you can't hardly take anything but a Republican out of his precinct," Johnson said of the switch of the north Fort Worth area he would gain from Fickes' territory.

Commissioner Roy Brooks, the lone Democratic commissioner, called it a "minimal change map" that meets the requirements of redistricting and the Voting Rights Act.

"I don't think anybody got their ideal situation," Brooks said of the process that is mandated every 10 years after a census count.

"Being pragmatic, I was looking to pick up minorities and Democrats. And the rest were looking to maximize their interests as well -- that's how the process works," Brooks said.

Under the preliminary map, Brooks' Precinct 1 will stretch across the width of the county with a narrow neck from east Fort Worth to Grand Prairie. The precinct then encompasses areas on the east and west sides of Interstate 35W and the southwest portion of the county south of Interstate 30.

"It's not a homogenous district by any stretch," he said.

Commissioner Andy Nguyen said he was happy that his Precinct 2, centered in Arlington and Mansfield, was virtually unchanged.

"For me, this hasn't been a complicated process. I like the result," he said.

Action on the preliminary map was listed on the Commissioners Court's regular agenda but was delayed until after a closed session. The map was then unanimously approved.

"This is something that everybody has a different opinion on," said County Administrator G.K. Maenius. "I think what we tried to do was a minimum change plan that met the requirements of redistricting in general and the Voting Rights Act in particular."

Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the preliminary map at 7 p.m. Aug. 17 at the County Administrative Building in downtown Fort Worth, Maenius said.

After a final vote, the map is to be submitted to the Justice Department for review.

Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981

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