FORT WORTH -- City Council members head toward a Tuesday vote on a redistricting map that, after months of work, still faces the threat of a lawsuit contending that Hispanics have a real shot at winning only one district under the map, even though they make up a third of Fort Worth's population.Council members said their legal counsel believes the Justice Department will OK the eight-district map."We feel it will pass" federal approval, Mayor Betsy Price said. "I think this council has been more than fair.""I would say the map is pretty well solid," said Mayor Pro Tem W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman, who led the council review.Redistricting was triggered by federal law when the census showed some districts had grown significantly over 10 years. To be cleared by the Justice Department, districts must be roughly equal in population, and redistricting can't reduce or dilute minority voting strength.The plan moves large pieces of Councilman Sal Espino's north-side District 2 into the west and east districts of Councilmen Dennis Shingleton and Danny Scarth, giving the fast-growing Interstate 35 corridor between Loop 820 and Texas 114 three representatives. The moves raise District 2's Hispanic population to 62.4 percent from 44.4 percent.But over objections from the United Hispanic Council, the map leaves the near-south-side District 9 of Councilman Joel Burns largely intact.Fernando Florez, a south-side and United Hispanic Council leader, said the group would be satisfied if precincts containing the heavily Anglo neighborhoods of Berkeley, Mistletoe Heights, Park Hill and TCU leave District 9.Hispanics make up 57.9 percent of District 9 under the map, up from 55.39. But Florez said Hispanics can't win because the district's Anglos vote heavily, to the historical exclusion of Hispanic candidates, and Hispanics have "given up.""We would settle this in a minute if they agreed to take those five precincts out," Florez said. "This thing is headed to court."Burns said he won election in 2007 against Juan Rangel with a coalition of Anglos and Hispanics. "Without Hispanic support, I probably would not have won," he said.The district's Hispanic percentages exceed the United Hispanic Council's goal, the neighborhoods are similar and share interests, and "every neighborhood association president wants to maintain District 9 as it is," Burns said.The city staff split one of the contested precincts. Part of Colonial Hills and the main part of TCU west of University Drive will move to Zimmerman's west-side District 3. Sunset Heights moves to District 9 from 3.Those moves raised District 9's Hispanic numbers, said Dana Burghdoff, deputy planning director. District 9 also gets Oakhurst from Espino's district and South Hills from District 3.The council, after three hearings, has expressed support for the latest map.Opponents can protest to the Justice Department. The map would be in place for 2013 elections.Espino said the United Hispanic Council's districts are more compact, logically drawn and fair to minorities. "My colleagues have acted in good faith," Espino said. "I just have a respectful disagreement."One dust-up arose in Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray's District 8, which includes Morningside, Poly, west/central Meadowbrook and far south Fort Worth east of I-35.Gray and Councilman Jungus Jordan agreed to transfer the far south end of District 8 to Jordan's neighboring District 6, and move some Sycamore School Road neighborhoods west of I-35 to District 8 from 6.The moves help raise District 8's black representation -- blacks have been moving into the Sycamore School area -- and retain District 6's link to I-35.But a group of District 8 leaders met Thursday with Gray and city staff to protest, arguing against moving the growing Spinks Airport area from the development-hungry district."It's all the jobs and the economic development that goes with it," the Rev. Carl Pointer said. "It's a large blessing if you can link it to the people who are here."A stronger black base -- District 8's will be 36.8 percent under the map, up from 34.47 -- "is a consideration, but it shouldn't be an overriding one," he said.But Gray said, "When you look at the demographics of the entire District 8, Spinks is more a suburban area that would actually fit better into District 6. Everything that is north of there is mostly central city."In her June election win over Ramon Romero, the south precincts went heavily for Romero.Not relevant, Gray said: "We were given the task of making sure District 8 did not retrogress as far as the minority vote."Transportation linksThe swap "makes a lot of sense, because of the demographics" and common interests, Jordan said.Transportation is top priority to residents of his Wedgewood-Candleridge district. Jordan wanted to keep an I-35 link, noting that six of eight districts have one."And as an old Air Force officer, I like the idea of having an airport in my backyard," he said.District 6 also grows west to Bryant-Irvin Road and takes in the Chisholm Trail corridor south of I-20 from District 3.Espino's district, which stretches from the north side to Texas 114, sheds more than 58,000 people.Shingleton's district, shedding nearly 12,000, today includes the Cultural District, much of the west side, and areas west and north of Loop 820.His district will absorb District 2's Alliance Airport, Texas Motor Speedway and far north areas east of I-35. Como, Western Hills, Ridgmar and Silver Creek west of 820 will move from Shingleton's district to Zimmerman's, which includes Ridglea.Much of Shingleton's district came into the city through annexation and shares interests in the lack of services and accessibility."We annexed these properties for good reason," he said. "But we have to deliver services, too."Scarth's district includes his reliable base in Woodhaven, White Lake Hills and Ryanwood, and stretches north along the east side of I-35 to North Tarrant Parkway. It will expand farther north to take in some of Espino's district and meet Shingleton's. Neighborhoods northeast of I-30 and Loop 820 will move to Councilman Frank Moss' District 5.Moss said more blacks are moving into those neighborhoods. The map drops the district's black population to 42.39 percent from 44.5. Moss said he expects the black population to keep growing.Fort Worth redistricting Here's a look at Fort Worth's city council district demographics, and how they'd change under redrawn districts.
|District||Current pop.||Redrawn pop.||Current Anglo %||Redrawn %||Current Hisp. %||Redrawn %||Current Black %||Redrawn Black %|
Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808