The resident-led Fort Worth Redistricting Task Force was originally formed to examine how to draw better city council maps. Nearly six years later, the scope of their task has changed. At their upcoming final meeting, the task force will choose a new city council map that could shape Fort Worth’s leadership for a decade.
The 10-member task force will narrow down the number of proposed maps from nine to one. Meetings to determine the task force’s map of choice began in late December. Since then, the task force has met twice to discuss the merits of individual maps and get input from the public.
Schedule of upcoming meetings:
2 PM Jan. 24, City Hall Room 2020: The Task Force will hear public comment and select a final map
1 PM Feb. 1, City Hall Room 2020: The Task Force will present the initial map at a city council work session
4 PM Feb. 8, Council Chamber: City Council will conduct a public hearing before considering changes to the map
9 AM Feb. 15, City Hall Room 2020: City Council will create a new map in a work session
6 PM, Feb 21, 24, 28 and March 3, location TBD: Public hearings on the proposed map
9 AM March 22, City Hall Room 2020: City Council will create a final map in a work session
10 AM March 29 at Council Chamber: City Council will adopt a final map
Monday’s meeting will include time for public comment and a briefing on the legal compliance of the top nine maps. Finally, members of the task force will discuss their options and choose a map to be considered by the City Council.
The task force was reactivated by City Council after calls for transparency in the redistricting process. Yet, council members did not agree to adhere to the task force’s recommendation. Once the map is in their hands, they are allowed to make changes to the initial map or create a new one.
Narrowing the field
In total, 26 maps were submitted to the task force for consideration; two of the maps were later withdrawn. The maps came from individual residents, interest groups and city council members. The task force is trying to balance choosing a map with multiple districts that have a Hispanic majority, and the interests of other communities.
At the Jan. 13 redistricting meeting, 26 residents spoke out to advocate for their preferred maps and individual interests. The most common concerns include creating ample opportunity for Hispanic candidates to be elected, uniting the Riverside Alliance community into one district and preserving opportunities for Black residents to elect the candidate of their choice.
Map X received the most support from those who spoke at the meeting. Map X includes a strong Hispanic-majority neighborhood and one additional district with a Hispanic voting-age population above 50 percent. Map X also unites the Riverside Alliance into one district.
The United Hispanic Council submitted Map Z. It contains a district that is two-thirds Hispanic and has two additional districts that fall around 50% Hispanic. Fernando Florez is a member of the group and has followed redistricting closely for 30 years.
“We need more Hispanic representation,” Florez said. “That’s what we’ve been fighting for all this time, and up to this point, we didn’t know if it was going to happen, but it looks promising”
The Riverside Alliance is also strongly advocating for their interests to be considered under the new maps. A majority of the maps under consideration unite the Riverside Alliance, including maps X and Z.
The neighborhoods to the east of Interstate 35W haven’t been united under one council district since Fort Worth approved single-member districts in the 1970s. Speakers at the Jan. 13 meeting said that being split between three council districts has weakened their ability to advocate for improvements to their neighborhood.
“We feel very pleased as to the progress we’ve made in communicating our goal,” Rick Herring, moderator of the Riverside Alliance, said. “We feel positive going into the final stages.”
The historically Black Lake Como neighborhood also advocated for their community. They submitted Map T, which unites the Como community with District 6. The Como neighborhood currently falls into District 3, represented by Michael Crain. The new map would place them in District 6, represented by Jared Williams.
“It is about being in a minority-majority district that gives you a fair shot at being able to select the best candidate for your community,” DeBose said.
How to speak at the meeting
Any member of the public who wishes to address the Task Force during public presentations must register to do so by noon on the date of the meeting. To register as a speaker, contact City Secretary Jannette Goodall at Jannette.firstname.lastname@example.org or 817-392-6161.
All nine maps under final consideration by the task force were analyzed by Xavier Medina Vidal, associate director for the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Vidal said maps I and Z expand representational opportunities for the Hispanic community.
To that end, Guzman highlighted maps I, X and Z for having the strongest minority opportunity districts. Vidal said maps I and Z expand representational opportunities for the Hispanic community.
The task force will take their expertise and the public comments into consideration when choosing a final map to send to council members. The task force will present its map to the City Council on Feb. 1.
The influence of the resident-led task force ends there. The public could get a preview of the City Council’s ideal map through the map produced by city staff; none of the districts created by the city has strong Hispanic majorities when factoring in voter age. The map did not go on to be considered by the task force in their final selection.
District 2 council member Carlos Flores, the lone Latino on the City Council, said he has been pleased with the work of the task force.
“Based on what I have seen, maps submitted by the community increase Hispanic voting population, which is encouraging,” Flores said.
Once he receives the initial map from the task force, Flores plans to be respectful of public input and approach crafting the final map with an open mind, he said.
Although the City Council is not obligated to consider the task force’s map, they will hear public comments about their proposed map from citizens at four meetings throughout late February and early March.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.