Will Houston add two more City Council seats?

February 23, 2011 4:45:10 PM PST
A mistake by the Census Bureau could impact council seats in Houston and the debate over whether to add more council positions.

By city charter, if Houston's population reaches 2.1 million, it must add two new council seats, but the latest census data is about 450-500 people short of that number. However, Mayor Annise Parker says the federal government that made a mistake.

As a longtime resident of Montrose, Sylvia Drew knows the importance of having an involved City Council member.

"I want someone that actually lives in my district, whose kids go to the same kind of schools, who we go to the same kind of community meetings; I mean I want someone who knows what it's like to be in my district," Drew said.

Currently, her area is represented by Wanda Adams. But that could very well change after redistricting, especially if two new council seats are added.

Parker said on Wednesday she plans to go ahead with redistricting plans because she believes the census undercounted parts of the city.

"We absolutely believe -- for a fact -- that we are above the 2.1 million because of some minor errors on the borders of Houston as to who should have been included, and who not, and we're going to proceed on that basis," Parker said.

But Council Member Mike Sullivan says since the official federal data shows the city just a few hundred people under the 2.1 million mark, they shouldn't spend the time or the money to add new colleagues.

"I don't think the city's respecting the Census Bureau's work at this time. It is the federal government. Those are the numbers that we have to recognize and have to respect it," Sullivan said.

Greg Wythe pores over the census data for a living. He's already drawn up maps of how two new seats could be added to Houston. One is a yellow district covering downtown and Montrose; another is a purple area in Fort Bend County.

"I think at the end of the day we're going to have two more seats," Wythe said.

For residents of Montrose, a new council member or not, Drew says what's most important is the quality of their representative.

"I think everyone deserves a district where you think you're going to get the best representation," she said.

While the city waits for the federal government to reevaluate the lines, Parker says she's pushing ahead and redistricting will go on, including the addition of two seats.

Parker also admits she'll be expecting lawsuits to be filed by people who don't want to add those two new seats.