Houston Politics: Map redistribution could dilute representation of Hispanics and Latinos on city council, threaten, leaders say

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) — In the latest battle to redistribute boroughs, Hispanic and Latino community leaders said they were concerned the new maps, approved by Houston City Council Wednesday night, would dilute their people’s voice. Portions of Magnolia Park, one of Houston’s oldest Hispanic neighborhoods, will now move to neighboring District H.

Councilor Robert Gallegos has repeatedly expressed concern about Councilor Abbie Kamin’s change to the reorganization maps. The changes would keep Freedmen’s Town, a historically black neighborhood, in their borough. The Houston Chronicle reported that residents did not want the move, and the executive director of the Freedmen Town’s Conservancy was concerned about setbacks on their multi-year projects if they had to work with another council member.

SEE ALSO: Freedmen’s Town in Houston’s Fourth Ward was voted the city’s 1st Heritage District

However, Gallegos said Kamin’s amendment would divide the Hispanic and Latino voice, a demographic already underrepresented in the city government as he is the only Hispanic person on a 16-member council. He said the affected areas have high percentages of Hispanic voters but are experiencing gentrification and could see a decline in the near future.

“In that way, it would dilute the votes of Hispanics in District H,” Gallegos said in Wednesday’s session. “We are not represented as we should be represented in this horseshoe because 50 percent of the population is Hispanic.”

READ MORE: Discussion of district redistribution tagged at city council meeting over lack of Hispanic representation

The city’s redistricting team said redrawing the maps is a very complicated and complex process, with so many different people wanting different things. According to the Houston Chronicle, city demographer Jerry Wood said they did their best to “make as few people unhappy as possible” and obey the law. It states that the most populous district may not have 10 percent more residents than the least populated area.

“The biggest problem we have with redistribution is that the Hispanic community is basically spread all over Houston. As such, it’s difficult to find single-member counties where the Hispanic committee actually represents a majority of registered voters,” senior assistant attorney general Douglas Ray said.

“The fact is, there are very few areas in the city that are so concentrated that you can guarantee that a Hispanic candidate will be preferred by voters,” Ray added. “I think what we came up with is probably as good as we could do given the situation we had. I don’t think it will have a negative impact on the Hispanic population, but I’m sure there are people who disagree.”

dr Sergio Lira, the president of Greater Houston LULAC, told ABC13 that they plan to file a lawsuit to replace the city’s five vacancies with individual seats. The Hispanic civil rights organization will also begin collecting signatures to put this issue on the 2023 ballot as a referendum.

“We keep saying we’re the most diverse city in America, but are we the fairest in terms of representation? I want people to understand that we are doing our best for fair and balanced representation based on the growth of the Latino population and the Asia Pacific Islander community in Harris County. They deserve a vote at the table,” Lira said.

Gallegos initially disagreed with LULAC’s plans to sue the city, but following the new developments, he told fellow councilors Wednesday night that he now believes their lawsuit is valid.

“Over time, District H will no longer be a Hispanic district. By supporting this, LULAC will come back and they will fight this time. I hesitated to support them, but now I have to do it,” Gallegos said.

SEE ALSO: Latino vs. Hispanic: Experts Explain the Difference Between These Generic Terms

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https://abc13.com/hispanic-latino-redistricting-maps/12325700/ Houston Politics: Map redistribution could dilute representation of Hispanics and Latinos on city council, threaten, leaders say

Russell Falcon

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