HCC is redistricting after 2020 Census shows gap in number of residents in different districts

Rosie Nguyen Image
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Houston's Third Ward fights for better representation on HCC's board
The school is in the middle of its redistricting process after the 2020 Census showed a disproportionate gap in the number of residents living in their biggest and smallest districts.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Residents from Houston's Third Ward and Hispanic/Latino community are fighting for better representation on Houston Community College's Board of Trustees. The school is in the middle of its redistricting process after the 2020 Census showed a disproportionate gap in the number of residents living in their biggest and smallest districts.

This issue impacts residents who live in any of HCC's nine districts. Each district is represented by a different board member, who collectively decides how taxpayer money is spent. The Board of Trustees makes decisions on important aspects for the college, such as policy, tuition, budget, and educational programs.

The Board adopted nine criteria that newly proposed maps have to meet. It includes being compact and contiguous, avoiding dilution/retrogression of minority voting rights, maintaining communities of interest and keeping neighborhoods together, and avoiding splitting county election precincts. The difference in population between the largest and smallest district must also be at or under 10%.

According to the 2020 Census numbers, the gap between District 6 and District 3 surpassed the threshold of a 10% difference. What makes the redistricting task even more difficult is the two districts are located on completely opposite sides of the city. District 6, the most populous single-member district, is located on the west side. Meanwhile, District 3, the least populous, is all the way on the east.

READ MORE: HCC will appoint new trustee after former member resigned following guilty plea in HISD bribery case

Map 1A is the one being most-highly considered by the Board and makes slight changes in every single district with a total of 13 moves. Redistricting experts said this version would be the least disruptive of current boundaries.

"Both state and federal law say that if there's a difference in terms of total population of greater than 10% between your most populous and least populous district, you're required to rebalance the whole system," Lisa McBride with Thompson & Horton LLC, the firm that serves as the lead counsel on redistricting for HCC, said. "It's not just a simple solution of exchanging population between those two districts, because they don't touch."

Multiple members of Greater Houston LULAC took to the podium Wednesday afternoon during the public comment session at the Board's special meeting on redistricting. They voiced their support for map 1A, arguing that it best reflects the growth of Houston's Hispanic and Latino population during the last decade.

"I ask you, honorable trustees, does this board reflect our demographics? Based on the 2020 census, the largest growth in Harris County was Latinos," Dr. Sergio Lira, chair of LULAC's Redistricting Task Force, said. "Let's not move the district lines that were agreed upon by trustees here to keep certain precincts where there are and not dilute the Latino citizens' voting population."

"We are demanding our equal share. We want to sit at the table with all of y'all representing our numbers. We don't want to replace anybody. But we do want our numbers according to the population," said Agustin Pinedo.

READ MORE: Leaders worry redrawn Houston maps could threaten Hispanic, Latino representation at city hall

However, Houston City Councilmember Carolyn Evans-Shabazz and residents of Houston's Third Ward said map 1A still divides their historically Black neighborhood into two separate districts. It was originally split 10 years ago during the last redistricting session. They asked HCC's Board of Trustees to consider maps 2A and 2C.

"This community has long suffered from high unemployment, poverty, and low student achievement. We want to preserve this community that shares common interests, concerns, and struggles. We deserve to stay in a single district. Dividing our community again only compounds the mistakes that were made in 2010," Dolores Rodgers said.

"I stand here and ask that, you, as a board in redrawing these lines do not disrupt our community that I've grown to know and love since my early years, since my birth. I've been a resident of the Third Ward community, please keep it intact," said Carl Davis with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

According to our content partner, Houston Chronicle, District 4 board member Reagan Flowers has also advocated to put Third Ward entirely back into her district.

HCC will continue to accept written comments from the public until Feb. 28.

Texas law requires the redistricting process to be completed at least 90 days before an election, according to McBride. With HCC's next election in November, that puts the redistricting deadline in August. But since that's in the middle of the candidate filing period, the Board will make a final decision on April 19.

"One thing a candidate needs to know in order to file for a place on the ballot is the boundaries they need to live within in order to be eligible to run. There is also a six month residency requirement for any candidate seeking to run, so that's why the board is attempting to complete this process by April," McBride said.

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