Wednesday , 20 June 2018

The Heat is on City Council

The task of configuring new voting districts for the City of McKinney has become an increasingly hot topic. With the results of the 2010 census indicating growth of the city’s Hispanic population and sizeable increase in population in the western and northern sections of the city, the time to rebalance the single member Council districts has arrived. The debate over where the lines will be drawn is sure to grow more heated during a public hearing meeting scheduled for Monday, August 8 at 6 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers, 222 N. Tenessee St. Council will hear input from citizens, but will not engage in discussion with the public.

City map showing current district boundaries: Lavendar: Dist. 1, Blue: Dist. 2 Pink: Dist. 3, Green: Dist. 4
For months, council has worked with consulting firm of Bickerstaff Heath Delgado and Acosta, LLP, to come up with a plan that ensures that redistricting obligations are legally met. The desired outcome of creating new districts is to create districts that are as equally close in population, and voting aged population, while maintaining or improving minority voting strength.

The result of these meetings is Plan 1 (see attached map), which would see the most dramatic change, geographically, to District 1. District 1’s scope would increase significantly to include areas from far east McKinney to north of U.S. 380 and would wrap around the north section of the city west to Custer Road. District 3, would have the greatest increase in population under the new plan, would also extend further west to include areas beyond the current boundary of Hardin Road.

The ideal population of each new district would be 32,748, which forces District 3, currently with a population of 15, 338, to increase its population by 53.16 percent and District 1 by 45.42 percent. Redrawing of the boundaries must be based on the population as reported in the 2010 Census, not on projected numbers of the city’s population.

In June, 2011, McKinney’s City Council adopted their own resolution (No. 2011-06) for the redistricting process, which includes the following criteria:

  • 5.  Districts must be configured so that they are relatively equal in total popuation according to the 2010 census. In no event should the total deviation between the largest and the smallest district exceed ten percent.
  • 7.  Consideration may be given to the preservation of incumbent-constituency relations by recognition of the residence of incumbents and their history in representing certain areas.

The plan must also meet legal criteria established by the Department of Justice (DOJ), including  the stipulation that plans submitted should avoid retrogression in the position of racial minorities and must avoid cracking or fracturing, as well as packing, a minority community within a district.

At their regular meeting in July, council voted to bring Plan 1, and possible variations to the plan, to the public to hear their concerns at the meeting scheduled for August 8.

Enter McKinney resident Alonzo Tutson, who has been attending the work sessions and council meetings as discussion surrounding the redistricting progressed.  Tutson, a resident of District 1, said he was surprised
with the fact that his district would stretch from east of Hwy. 5 to all the way north of U.S. 380 and west to Custer Rd.

“It was during that meeting that I decided to get involved. I was shocked to hear District 1’s Councilman (Don) Day, say he could live with the plan (1) – I expected him to fight for us. I expect him to represent us,” Tutson said.

Although Tutson said Day does have a heart for the downtown area and has certainly “put his money where his mouth is”, he feels that the redistricting plan that Day should support would be one that presents a more geographically compact area.

“I feel that our district will lose its identity – we have people living here on the east side, and in the historic district,  who have lived here for generations. We are a community of older homes and we have different issues than the new developments in the north and to the west of the city,” Tutson said.

Tutson sent out an email to his list of contacts asking for support against the city’s Plan 1. Curtis Rath, a resident of District 2, stepped up and the two began putting together a new proposal. (See attached Citizen Proposal Rath Tutson PDF) which they submitted to the city. Rath said he got inolved to protect McKinney’s historical, ethnic and cultural heritage.

“Map 1 does have higher population of miniorities and VAP, but my map had only about 2% less minority population,” said Rath. “You tell me – Who is going to represent the east side in five years? There is no way that it will be someone living east of 75.”

But Day further commented that the city must be careful not to dilute the minority vote and that ten years from now, the city will have the opportunity to redraw the lines once again. He said that council has looked at the map presented by Tutson and Rath.

Councilman Day told TownSquareBuzz, “I’m not completely happy with Plan 1, but we went through at least fifteen options and this is the one that most closely fits the criteria of the Department of Justice (DOJ)”.

“Dividing one hundred and thirty thousand plus people between four districts over the land mass of McKinney, while adhering to the legal requirements of the Department of Justice is a challenging process. Even with all the defined requirements, the process does not guarantee perfection for those impacted, so we do the best we can,” said Mayor Pro Tem Travis Ussery.  “I think I can speak for all of council in saying that this is a painful process for all of us – we want to do what is best for everyone in McKinney, but in doing so, some (residents) are not going to be happy.”

Before adopting a final plan, the city must gain approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for the new district boundaries before they are implemented in an election. 

McKinney Indpendent School District is also in the process of redrawing their districts, however, school districts are allowed to base redistricting plans on projected population.

What do you think McKinney?  Do you care?  Is this a big deal?  Post your comments below.


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