Dallas Welcomes Senate and House Redistricting Committees
DALLAS - Legislative redistricting committees met for the second day of a two day series of hearings in the Metroplex. The first hearing was held Friday, April14, 2000, at the University of Texas at Arlington. Saturday's public hearing was held at the Dallas Convention Center.
Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson testified, recalling her service in the legislature and the experience of chairing the Texas Senate Congressional Redistricting Committee ten years ago. Johnson testified about the importance of accurate census numbers and the legal requirements in creating the redistricting maps. In her testimony, she discussed the importance of protecting incumbents in a system where seniority is the key to success and about the importance of minority representation.
Dallas State Representative Domingo Garcia testified about the increasing number of Hispanics in Dallas County. Garcia wants community of interests to be considered when creating the new maps. He questioned the accuracy of the projected numbers used by Texas Legislative Council (TLC). Garcia expects the census numbers to be much different than the projections, showing increased Hispanic populations up to one million in Dallas County. Dallas State Representative Helen Giddings testified that the new boundaries should have as little disruption to the districts as possible. Giddings explained how difficult it is for constituents when the lines change dramatically.
Dr. Allan Lichtman, Chair of the History Department of American University in Washington D.C., gave a visual presentation. Lichtman has been used as expert testimony in over 70 court cases relating to redistricting and the Voting Rights Act. He testified about the use of statistical sampling and the potential undercount as it relates to minorities and federal funding. Lichtman testified that if statistical sampling is not used, the Texas undercount is estimated to be 608,000 resulting in Texas losing up to $1.9 billion in federal funds.
Hutchins Mayor Mary Washington testified, requesting the districts remain intact. Dallas City Council Member John Loza spoke, asking the committees to ensure Hispanic get fair representation. Duncanville City Council Member Judy Richards also testified asking to keep current districts intact. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price testified that if the process becomes overly partisan the citizens of Texas lose, not the political parties. Dallas Independent School District Board Trustees Jose Plata and Kathleen Leos testified about how funding issues effect local school districts.
Juan Jasso, Justice of the Peace in Precinct 6 of Dallas County, testified about his experience as a census taker, saying that in 1980 there were many people who were not counted intentionally for many reasons, the example given was that census takers refused to go into the colonias.
Grand Prairie City Council Member Teri Jackson testified on split representation, they have 2 Congressmen (Frost and Barton), two state senators (Nelson and West), and five state representatives. In the early nineties they grumbled because of the different parties; since then they have changed their thoughts to believe they now have better representation. The city finds that even though their representatives are from different parties, they feel the representatives work together for the good of the community. She requested the Legislature leave Grand Prairie out of the partisan battles when considering redistricting.
Public testimony was given by Francisco 'Pancho' Medrano who spoke in support of State Senator Royce West. Medrano has been tireless worker in Texas devoted to minority issues, dating to the early seventies when he worked in the Rio Grande Valley to register voters with a young Bill Clinton. Pauline Dixon testified in support of her representatives. Demetris Sampson testified in support of creating minority representative districts and preserving communities of interest. Sampson serves as one of three co-chairs appointed by Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to help with the census. Sampson encouraged the use of the statistical sampling. Lee Alcorn testified representing NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). In addition to his support of minority representation, Alcorn supports the use of statistical sampling.
Joe May testified that he does not believe that incumbents must be protected. Henry T. Lawson spoke in support of maintaining the minority districts that were gained in Dallas County during the 1990 redistricting process. Michael Milliken testified on his hopes that the gay community would be considered for minority representation in the future. Christy Kinsler testified that she felt the projected numbers were inaccurate. Kinsler feels there has been significant growth. Mike Beverly testified that he felt districts should remain as intact as possible. Albert Black testified that he had to move from the suburbs to an area where he gets the representation he desires. Since then, he has also moved his business there, which employs over 100 people.
Dallas City Council Member Donald W. Hill testified in support of the current districts and wants them kept intact. Susybelle Gossley testified on behalf on the League of Women Voters. Art Robles, representing the Dallas Hispanic Chamber, testified in support of more Hispanic representation in Dallas County. Ramiro Lopez testified about the reasons people are reluctant to complete the census forms. Lopez spoke of the fear of the government and of being rounded up to be deported. Maria Gomez testified that many will not be counted because community members have said they would rather not be counted or get federal funding than to be deported. These people will not complete census forms due to fear. Carmen Garcia, one of the three co-chairs appointed by Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to help with the census, testified about the difficulty of getting participation for the census. Garcia was very frustrated with the census bureau and the difficult rules surrounding the process.
J. Gerald Hebert testified representing IMPAC 2000, the redistricting project of the Democratic National Committee. Hebert used a visual presentation for his testimony to discuss the loss of funding due to a low census count in 1990 and the Voting Rights Act. Roger Herrera, an attorney, testified that Dallas County has a large enough population to gain a Hispanic congressional seat, state senate seat, and three state house seats. Community activist Bobbye Gee testified that she wants to see Hispanic seats in North Texas because it's right and it's fair.
George Korbel, representing the Mexican-American Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives, testified that the committees need to stop discussing the census. Korbel says Texas used corrected data 10 years ago and the information came from the census. Frances Rizo testified that she wants equal representation and urged the committees to recognize the Hispanics. Rizo implored the committees to be fair and avoid lawsuits when the lines are drawn. Rizo supports the use of statistical sampling.
Verwyn Lou Nevaquaya discussed the Native American Indian population; she is of the Comanche tribe. She commented on the fact that no one had talked about their population and the needs of their community. In 1990, Texas had the eighth largest Native American population in the United States. Nevaquaya talked about the lack of schools and college opportunities. Alcoholism and the high school dropout rate for Native Americans is the highest of any group in the nation.
The next public hearings will be held on May 16, 2000 at the San Antonio Convention Center. A report of the findings will be available in late November of 2000.