Observers of the monthslong process say time will tell if the map accomplished the goals set out by the council: Add the opportunity for more Hispanic representation and preserve communities of interest across the city.
Council members touted the compromise that led to the final map and commended District 9 Councilwoman Elizabeth Beck for agreeing to move portions of her district, including Rosemont and Worth Heights, into the new District 11.
“The result (of compromise) should be a begrudging acceptance,” Beck said. “I think that while we’re all proud of what we did up on this dias, no one is doing jumping jacks because we all had to make some really tough decisions.”
The map, which passed unanimously, is the result of more than six months of work from a resident-led redistricting task force and the City Council. The map received a mix of opposition and support from residents during the final meeting.
The map is not perfect, District 3 council member Michael Crain said, but the compromise the council displayed throughout the redistricting process is a welcome change from the division typically displayed during political processes like redistricting.
Council members did their best to leave their emotions at the door, Mayor Mattie Parker said after the vote.
“Compromise is not always going to be pretty. No one said it would be,” the mayor said.
Residents across the city reacted to the final maps in the days following the passage. The council had a historic opportunity to expand Hispanic residents’ council representation, an option Ossana Hermosillo said her family has never had while she was growing up in Fort Worth.
“It could have been worse,” Hermosillo, who served on the redistricting task force, said of the new map. “It does provide a better opportunity toward Hispanic representation than if both new districts had been created up north. And, for that, I’m still hopeful.”
Redistricting this year has been more transparent than in years past, Hermosillo said. The task force’s recommendations could have been used more effectively, she said, but when the final votes were tallied, the new District 11 gives Hispanic residents a shot at electing a Hispanic council member, she added.
The new District 11 will have a Hispanic voting-age population of 58%. Advocates said when taking citizenship into consideration, that number could be as low as 48%.
A major impasse over the Polytechnic Heights neighborhood sparked intense disagreement between District 8 councilman Chris Nettles and District 6 councilman Jared Williams at the City Council’s final map drawing session.
The solution the council arrived at — splitting the Poly neighborhood between District 8 and 11 — was disappointing to longtime resident Reba Henry. The challenges facing Poly, including neighborhood unity and access to city services, will not be helped by splitting the diverse neighborhood in two, Henry said.
“That totally is gerrymandering, what they’ve done,” Henry said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Under the new map, Henry will reside in District 8. Henry used to reside in District 5 where she was represented by councilwoman Gyna Bivens. The new map puts parts of the Polytechnic Heights neighborhood west of Texas Wesleyan University and Vaughn Avenue in District 8. The remainder will be included in District 11.
The community is currently split by Avenue J, with District 5 filling the southern parts of the community. Henry said it’s the odd shape of the new map that bothers her.
“It seems like what was once my community no longer is,” Henry said.
Residents of the far north have felt neglected throughout the redistricting process, said Rusty Fuller, president of the North Fort Worth Alliance. Residents of the Northside asked the council to draw districts with lower populations that allow for more population growth, without overburdening their council members.
“We just wanted to have room to grow,” Brian Black, president of the Heritage Homeowners Association, said. “In 10 years… we’ll be underrepresented as the population continues to grow.”
Instead, the district with the lowest population is District 9, which includes downtown and parts of south Fort Worth. Black registered his neighborhood as a community of interest early on in the redistricting process.
“All along, the neighborhood was all together, and then at the last minute we weren’t,” Black said. “So that’s the frustration, that we were not notified.”
Heritage is now split between District 4 and District 10, fracturing the neighborhood’s ability to advocate for itself, Black said. The neighborhood is one of the largest and most politically involved in the north, said Fuller. Heritage won The Fort Worth Pride Award in 2021, a title awarded by the city to celebrate neighborhoods that beautify their community.
The neighborhood submitted a request to comment on the split before the council vote via phone, but the council wasn’t able to get through to the speaker.
“We just wanted to voice our displeasure,” Black said. “We didn’t care what district we were in. We just wanted to be together.”
Both Districts 10 and 4 will be open seats. Council member Cary Moon will not run again in District 4. Four candidates have filed to replace him: Alan Blaylock, James H. McBride, Teresa Ramirez and Tara Wilson.
Council members acknowledged that the far north won’t receive the two districts they asked for throughout the redistricting process.
“This is not the best map. It’s not the most popular map. It’s not a Republican map. It’s not a Democrat map. It’s not a staff-drawn map. It is truly a compromise map,” Nettles said.
Several residents who spoke before the final vote on March 29 thanked the council for its transparency throughout redistricting.
“I feel like the process was open. Any resident that wanted to address you had the opportunity to,” Rick Herring, moderator for the Riverside Alliance, said.
The Riverside Alliance will be included in one City Council district for the first time under the new map. “It’s a realization of a dream,” Herring said.
The City Council and staff held three public meetings where residents voiced support or opposition against various maps throughout the process.
At the same meeting, council members voted to raise the cap on the amount of money they are allowed to spend on their redistricting legal counsel, Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado and Acosta LLP. The city’s legal counsel, Philip Arnold, has attended redistricting meetings virtually and in person and completed legal analysis of the maps.
The city can now pay the outside counsel up to $125,000. Originally, the council approved up to $35,000 in compensation to the lawyers on March 10, 2021. Later, the council updated the cap on Dec. 14, 2022, to $85,000, according to records.
In an email from deputy city attorney Leann Guzman to another city staff member dated Feb. 1, 2022, Guzman noted the need for a cap increase to compensate the lawyers.
“How are we doing on our spending authority?” Guzman asked. “I keep getting more and more requests for additional work that we didn’t budget for, so I need to know when I need to go back to council. Ugh.”
The City Council previously discussed legal concerns with the horseshoe map, citing a law that requires it to have race-neutral reasoning for drawing district lines. At Tuesday’s meeting, Moon said he expected a lawsuit related to the approved map.
“I don’t expect the map to hold up,” Moon said, despite voting in favor of the map.
Race-neutral reasoning for the final map was considered, Parker said after the vote. Wrapping up redistricting by June, Moon said, allows time to make adjustments based on legal challenges.
Who could run in the new District 11?
The deadline to establish residency in a district, which is required to run for a council seat, is Aug. 17, 2022.
Parker and District 5 councilmember Gyna Bivens hinted at a candidate of choice for District 11 as the council made final adjustments to boundary lines. Bivens ensured that Eastern Hills, a neighborhood in east Fort Worth, is included in the new district.
“The Eastern Hills change provides a way for another person to hopefully run one day – who shall remain nameless,” Bivens said at the meeting.
District 11 will house six candidates who have previously run for City Council in 2021, and District 10 will house four.
Parker has openly expressed a hope that a Latina will choose to run, and win, in the new District 11. She has not discussed any name yet.
What districts will former opponents of sitting council members be in?
- Theodore Gray: District 2
- Jennifer Sarduy: District 2
- Juan Sixtos: District 7
- Tonya D. Carter: District 6
- Daniel Fattori: District 7
- Andy Gallagher: District 3
- Katie Johnson: District 3
- Anne Low: District 3
- Adrian Smith: District 6
New candidates for District 4 special election:
- Tara Wilson: District 5
- Teresa Ramirez: District 4
- James H. McBride: District 11
- Alan Blaylock: District 10
- Antonio “Twin” Harris: District 11
- Richard Vazquez: District 5
- Bob Willoughby: District 5
- Jungus Jordan: District 6
- Tiesa Leggett: District 8
- Zeb Pent(runoff): District 7
- Cornelia ” Connie” Cottrell: District 10
- Lee Henderson: District 7
- Joseph Lockhart Jr.: District 4
- Michele Stephens McNill: District 10
- Irvin “Tee” Thomas: District 10
- Jake Wurman: District 10
- Miguel Zamora: District 7
- Kelly Allen Gray (runoff): District 11
- Christopher Johnson: District 11
- Tyrone King: District 8
- Millennium Woods Jr.: District 8
- Ricardo Avitia: District 11
- Ferndando Peralta(runoff): District 11
- Erik Richerson: District 11
- Doyle C. Fine: District 9
- James Darien George: District 9
- Jordan Mims: District 9
- Sabrina Renteria: District 9
- Jared T. Sloane: District 9
“I think you’re going to see a fellow Hispanic member of this community sitting alongside us in our new City Hall a year from now,” Parker said at the March 23 meeting. “And I hope it is a female, a Latina, to represent this new district.”
Nettles gave up parts of Poly after fighting hard to keep it in one district earlier in the March 23 meeting.
“I know a lot of people want the entire Poly into District 11, and we were trying to make that happen,” Nettles said. “A Hispanic leader requested (everything north of Vickery Blvd and east of beach) because we’re not able to do all of Poly (in District 11).”
State Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, said he urged Nettles to include his home in the new District 11, so he can provide support to young Hispanic candidates running in the new district. He has no intention to run in District 11, he said.
“That would be terrible for the young people who want to run there,” Romero said. “I think it’s going to be a crowded race and thank God that it is.”
Romero, who unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in District 8 before being elected to the statehouse in 2014, was actively involved in the redistricting process. He urged council members to approve a final map that delivers a strong Hispanic opportunity district to residents in the Southside.
“I am happy that many folks on the Southside will hopefully get to elect a Latino, but they’re going to have to work really, really hard,” Romero said.
The map does not deliver a strong enough district to guarantee a Hispanic victory, Romero said. It’s a lot harder than people realize to elect a Hispanic leader, he explained, when some of the Hispanic population in the Southside are not U.S. citizens.
“Yes, it’s up to the voters, but there’s going to be lots of folks who look back and say, ‘Ddid we do enough when we had the opportunity?” Romero said. “I would be one of the folks vocal enough to say now – no we did not.”
Former District 9 candidate Fernando Peralta has consistently spoken out against the splitting of Rosemont, one of the largest Hispanic communities of interest in the city. Under the final map, Peralta is included in District 11.
He said he is unsure if he plans to run in the newly formed district, but would criticize any candidate who has not been actively engaged in this redistricting process from the beginning.
“I have not put aside the thought of running, but after this whole process – the experience of being a person of color running in Fort Worth – there’s a lot of stuff that I have to weigh,” Peralta said. “If the City Council has set up my community to fail… the first thing I have to weigh is ‘how is this going to affect my family.”
Romero said when he won his statehouse seat in District 90, he received the advice “no nos avergüences,” or “don’t embarrass us,” from elder Hispanic leaders. Whoever runs in District 11, will need to take that advice to City Hall, Romero said.
“The people who vote for you, really believe in you,” he said. “And you need to represent them well.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. Reba Henry is a member of the Fort Worth Report’s Reader Advisory Council. 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.