Residents will have a final opportunity March 22 to tell the Fort Worth City Council which redistricting map they want council members to approve.

The final map will shape the City Council for the next decade – residents have three maps to weigh in on:

– Map X Version 2 creates two new districts north of Loop 820.
– Map X Version 3 creates a second majority Hispanic district.
– Map X Version 4 also creates a majority Hispanic district – and it’s a larger majority than Version 3. 

The council prioritized Version 3 at a March 1 meeting. Since then, the redistricting page on the city’s website was updated to include Version 2 and Version 4 for public view. At the final public comment meeting, residents will have the opportunity to advocate for the map of their choice.

After the March 22 meeting, the council will convene to discuss the proposed maps and make any adjustments to produce a final map. 

If you go:

The final meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, in council chambers at City Hall, 200 Texas St, Fort Worth, TX 76102

After the March 22 public comment meeting, the council is scheduled to select a final map on March 23 and adopt a final map on March 29. 

Also on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting is a closed session for the council to seek the advice of its attorney about pending or potential litigation related to redistricting.  

The city’s counsel, Philip Arnold, will present legal analysis of the maps after Tuesday’s public comment meeting. Deputy City Attorney Leann Guzman said Arnold’s legal analysis will not be made available to the public before the comment period. 

Version 3 with a horseshoe

District 8 council member Chris Nettles’ map, titled Map V3 with a horseshoe, places one new district in the far north and one new district, District 11, east of downtown that extends into parts of south-central Fort Worth, roughly forming the shape of a horseshoe.

District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck has advocated for Nettles’ map throughout the redistricting process. There is a strong commitment from council members to create a strong Hispanic-opportunity district, Beck said, but it might not be perfect. 

“But if we continue to work really hard, we can arrive at a map that will work for the entire city,” Beck said. 

The purpose of the horseshoe is to strengthen a Hispanic-opportunity district. By dipping into parts of south Fort Worth, it brings the Hispanic voting-age population in District 11 to 58%. Council members should evaluate the strength of the newly created district by the percentage of the citizen voting-age population, some advocates for a strong Hispanic-opportunity district said. 

Pablo Calderon, whose map was chosen by the redistricting task force as the best citizen-produced map, sent all three maps to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which generated the citizen voting-age population in each district for all four maps. 

What is citizen voting-age population?

Citizen age voting population can be used to draw maps that may more accurately represent the number of Hispanic voters in a given location. The Hispanic population typically has a higher percentage of non-citizens compared to other ethnic groups, the city’s legal counsel, Philip Arnold, said. Therefore, a simple majority isn’t always sufficient to create a Hispanic-opportunity district and it is useful to consider citizenship in analysis, advocates said. However, some groups have called the practice of redistricting based on the number of citizens in a racial or ethnic group discriminatory toward the Hispanic population. 

The analysis of Nettles’ map shows the new Hispanic-opportunity district would have a citizen voting-age population of 42%.

If council members’ goal is to give Hispanics in Fort Worth an opportunity to elect a second Latino to the City Council, it needs to consider these citizen voting-age numbers and recognize that turnout is lower among Hispanic voters than other groups, said Byrwec Ellison, who is engaged in the map drawing process. 

“I’ve done political canvassing in Hispanic neighborhoods, and you just encounter so much reluctance to vote,” Ellison explains. “A lot of times, I think it’s psychological. The idea that ‘we can’t affect the election, we’re not powerful enough.’ There’s just a lot that argues against participation, including engagement at the civic level.” 

Panther Island would be moved into District 9 from District 2 under the proposed map. Council member Carlos Flores raised concerns about the move in a March 1 meeting. 

“It’s always been part of the historic Northside, and it’s problematic,” Flores said. 

Residents questioned the move at a meeting of the Resident Advisory Council of Northside on March 17. Neighbors at the meeting pledged to advocate against the change at the upcoming public comment meeting. 

“I don’t see a reason why Panther Island Pavilion would be under Elizabeth Beck, who hasn’t been to the Pulga (a long-standing Hispanic market) and doesn’t have a personal connection to the Golden Gloves (a Hispanic-owned boxing gym on the Northside) – that’s a very integral part of the Northside and its culture,” Ariella Villa said.  

The proposed map also keeps neighborhoods in the Riverside Alliance together within District 5 and includes Como in District 6

The Alliance is a group of neighborhood associations in East Fort Worth. Residents who live there said being split between three districts has prevented the Alliance from getting needed support from the city. Through the redistricting process, residents have consistently asked to be united into one council district.

Como is a majority Black neighborhood that has long been a part of District 3, a majority white district currently represented by council member Michael Crain. During public meetings, some residents asked to be moved into District 6 so they could have the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. 

Nettles’ map with a horseshoe amendment received the majority of support from residents at a Feb. 28 public comment meeting. After the map was made public, some advocates for a Hispanic district said changes to Nettles’ map aren’t sufficient to reliably secure more Hispanic representation on the council. 

“The map that was unveiled the next morning was a real bait and switch and excluded so many Hispanic neighborhoods (from the new majority Hispanic district),” Ellison said.

The map includes the heavily Hispanic neighborhoods of Worth Heights and West Morningside in the new Hispanic majority district. The new boundaries also split the Hispanic neighborhood of Rosemont in half between District 9 and the new District 11.

Rosemont is one of the largest and most established Hispanic neighborhood associations in the Southside. Former City Council candidate and Rosemont resident Fernando Peralta said splitting Rosemont disenfranchises voters in his neighborhood. 

“Other communities in Fort Worth have shown up and gotten exactly what they want for their communities. We’ve done the same thing, so I don’t understand why we can’t get that,” Peralta said. 

Representatives of the Worth Heights community, a majority Hispanic neighborhood, have asked to remain in District 9. The Southside communities included in the horseshoe have little in common with eastside neighborhoods, said Victoria Bargas, Vice President of the Worth Heights neighborhood association. 

“I don’t feel like it makes sense for us to be put in a district that’s mostly on the east side of town,” Bargas said. “I feel like the Hispanic voice in Worth Heights will be drowned out.” 

Rosemont is split to avoid impacting other council districts that were previously finalized in the eyes of the council before the horseshoe amendment was added, Beck said. Equalizing population across the district is a key requirement of redistricting. By adding the horseshoe and including the entirety of Rosemont, the change would have thrown other districts out of balance.  

Version 4 with a horseshoe 

Council member Carlos Flores’ map, titled Map V4 with a horseshoe, is similar to Nettles’ map. It creates a new district in the far north and another new district, District 10, east of downtown that extends into parts of south-central Fort Worth – also roughly forming the shape of a horseshoe. The key difference between Map V3 and V4 is the new district to the south contains more heavily Latino parts of south Fort Worth. 

District 10 in Flores’ map has a stronger Hispanic majority compared to Nettles’ map; its Hispanic voting-age population is nearly 67%. When citizenship is accounted for, that percentage drops to 53%, according to numbers from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. 

“I anticipate that we will be on point with a clear message that Version 4 with a horseshoe provides the Hispanic community with the greatest opportunity for a second possible seat on the council,” Calderon said. 

The new Hispanic majority district in Flores’ map includes the entirety of Rosemont, the John Peter Smith Hospital and South Hemphill Heights

Despite creating the strongest Hispanic opportunity district among the three maps, other groups are concerned about how proposed boundaries will impact them. Notably, Flores’ map splits the Bonnie Brae Neighborhood Association from the Riverside Alliance. 

Similar to the other maps for consideration, Flores’ map includes the Como neighborhood in District 6.

Version 2

Councilman Cary Moon’s map, titled Map V2, places two new districts north of Loop 820. If Moon’s map is approved by the council, residents north of the Loop will be represented by four different council members. Residents have requested at least districts in the far north. 

The map lacks a strong second Hispanic opportunity district and Hispanic activists have consistently labeled Moon’s map as a non-starter. Yet, it is the only map that meets the needs of residents in the far north, said Rusty Fuller, President of the North Fort Worth Alliance

“We’re regrouping now one more time to show up at the meeting and say, ‘Look, you can put three districts up here easily,’” Fuller said. 

The map also keeps neighborhoods in the Riverside Alliance together in District 5 and includes Como in District 6. 

Fuller believes public comment will be driven by the priorities of Hispanic-focused organizations and the final map will be driven by their input.

Despite the technicalities of redistricting, over 61 residents advocated for their map of choice at the last public comment meeting. The City Council should expect a similar turnout on March 22, advocates said.

“You’ve got three potential plans that the public can comment on, it makes it messier, more confusing, and a little more difficult,” Ellison, an advocate for a second strong Hispanic district said. “What it really depends on his who comes out and advocates for one plan or the other.”

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.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.

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Rachel Behrndt

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for fortworthreport.org. She can be reached at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org

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