I’m writing a story due today for tomorrow’s paper about the 4 “minority” districts that AGR has proposed for Northeast, East and Southeast Austin. I wanted to get your group’s thoughts on what AGR came up with, since you have also suggested your own map. If one or both of you could give me a call today, I’d appreciate it.
I would prefer to speak to you through email on this issue, because I believe that my stance as the editor of the North Austin Community Newsletter could easily be mis-construed.
First, I want to make it very, very clear that I fully support a North Austin district that will give our Hispanics and Latinos the opportunities they have been denied for so long. I also fully understand why AGR created the North Austin Hispanic district as they did (the district in red - please the 10-1 page at www.lovenorthaustin.com for the map if you have not seen it).
AGR went purely by statistics and tried to create a distict they thought would best meet the questions the Voting Rights Act raises in regards to Hispanic minorities:
-How do you best draw a district that ensures there are enough Hispanics to vote?
-How do you balance the one person, one vote requirement with a population that may have a sizable population of individuals who actually cannot vote? (for example, Hispanics under 18)
-How do you draw a Hispanic district that will be compact and contiguous, per the requirements of the Department of Justice
The problem is this district raises as many questions as it seeks to answer:
-Why does the proposed district have such a disproportionately large amount of affordable and multi-family housing stock in comparison to other proposed districts?
-Why does the proposed district have such a small amount of parks, hike and bike trails, and green spaces in comparison to other proposed districts?
-Why are many of the North Austin AISD schools that are struggling being clustered so heavily in this proposed district?
-Why does this district have so little open land in comparison to other proposed districts? How will this district address current community needs such as park and recreational space, and provide for future community needs like more residential housing and schools, if there is limited open space?
We can take the low bar approach. We can draw this district as currently proposed and we would be completely within the Department of Justice's guidelines per the Voting Rights Act.
My questions to you and to everybody engaged in this process is this:
Is this the precedence we want to set as the capital of Texas? Or should we raise the bar and hold our city's geographic districting process to a higher standard than the one the Department of Justice says we need to meet?
editor, North Austin Community Newsletter
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