The Fort Worth Redistricting Task Force voted Monday to advance a map that creates two districts with a majority of Hispanic residents.
Map X, highly favored by task force members before Monday’s meeting, was approved with some adjustments.
The proposed map is designed to address the concern that Hispanic residents are underrepresented on the City Council. Map X creates a new district in southeast Fort Worth with a Hispanic majority.
“I believe Map X is the consensus map,” task force chair Sal Espino said.
Creating a second opportunity for Hispanic representation on the council is not required under the Voting Rights Act. Yet from its inception, the task force set out to create a second strong Hispanic voting district.
“I want to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Whitnee Boyd, coordinator of special projects for TCU, said to her fellow task force members. “We know what the bare minimum is, but we don’t want to do the bare minimum.”
Conversation at the meeting also focused on a dilemma surrounding the Lake Como community. Representatives from the Como community asked to be included in a minority opportunity district.
The Como Community submitted Map T to be considered by the council. The Como map did not create another Hispanic minority district; instead, it created two districts in north Fort Worth, where the majority of growth has occurred.
Lake Como Community
Kenneth Jones Jr., senior pastor at Como First Missionary Baptist Church, was vocal throughout the meeting, reacting to decisions as the task force made them. His main concern is uniting Como with a minority opportunity district.
“We feel like we have been disenfranchised in our district,” Jones said. “We have run quality candidates and have not been able to get those individuals elected.”
Como’s calls to be united with Jared William’s District 6 were complicated by limitations on the task force’s power. The task force does not have the authority to create its own map, or make large changes to citizen-submitted maps.
Most task force members indicated a preference to use Map X as their base and then shift the Como Community into Jared William’s district by creating a bridge between Como and District 6.
City staff determined the task force didn’t have the authority to make the change. Instead, the task force will deliver Map X to the council with a set of recommendations. Como would be included in Jared William’s district, and 13 neighborhoods would be shifted into different districts as a result. The task force will also recommend that Stop Six be shifted to remain in Gyna Bivens district.
Como prides itself on being civically engaged, Jones said. Como residents have worked hard to get their voices heard in a district where they’re the minority, and they shouldn’t have to continue to sacrifice electing the candidate of their choice to make room for other priorities.
“We are the most organized community in Fort Worth, so why are we penalized?” Jones said.
The result of Map X is a 10-member City Council with five minority-opportunity seats. The map will also certainly shake up incumbent opportunities. Most notably, Map X cuts down Chris Nettles district to create a new District 11 in southeast Fort Worth.
Map X did have opposition. Lucretia Powell, vice president of her Echo Heights Neighborhood Association, questioned prioritizing Hispanic representation in Map X when there’s no guarantee it will result in more representation on the council. Resident Graham Norris raised concerns that the bridge to include Como in Jared William’s district resembled gerrymandering.
Next the map will go to the City Council. The task force will present its map at a council work session Tuesday, Feb. 1. From there, council members can make changes to the initial map. After the council creates a new map, there will be four opportunities for public comment.
The city promises to make the process open and transparent, by holding open meetings to make any adjustments to the maps. Jones promises to be at those meetings to make his community’s priorities known and advocate for a district that is split between six minority City Council members and four Anglo members.
“We weren’t really a part of the process 10 years ago, because the city didn’t allow participation,” Jones said. “Now, we will be going before the council to give our sentiments from Como.”
Editors note: This story was changed on Jan. 26 to reflect that Map X creates five minority opportunity districts. The original version of this story incorrectly reported the amount of minority opportunity districts in Map X.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.