Dallas Council redistricting plan scrutinized

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on September 24, 2011 at 6:59 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 24 at 11:20 PM

DALLAS — More than 200 people attended a special meeting at Dallas City Hall Saturday to discuss the politically-charged issue of re-drawing City Council districts to represent a changing population.

The meeting gave the public the chance to speak out on eight amended proposals &dmash; a complicated and controversial process.

"We are going to recall you if Map 16D doesn't pass," said Roy Williams, whose federal lawsuit with Marvin Crenshaw led to an end of at-large districts and the start of the current system of 14 single-member districts and a mayor elected by all voters.

Residents from all corners of the city voiced their concerns, and 75 people signed up to speak at the meeting.

"When you keep your zigs and zags like you have done today, you cannot keep communities of interest together," said resident Roxan Staff.

Some people told the City Council they want to unite their communities into one district. Others are seeking better representation.

"For decades, the residents of forgotten far East Dallas have struggled to be represented and to have a voice at City Hall," said Vicky Martin.

The issue that dominated the meeting was the push to protect black districts.

"We will not accept anything less than four African-American districts," said NAACP Dallas President Juanita Wallace.

Some of the redistricting plans could reduce those black seats to three. The changes would threaten the districts currently represented by Dwaine Caraway, Carolyn Davis, Vonciel Jones and Tennell Atkins.

"My mission today is, how do we have four winnable African-American seats... not to regress, to make sure we stay as status quo," Atkins said.

Under the law, the city's new district map needs to reflect changes in demographics. Currently, 42 percent of the city's population is Hispanic, whites make up 29 percent and blacks 25 percent.

"With Latinos being 42 percent of the City of Dallas, we really need to make sure that we have a good representation representing that — five districts," said Council member Delia Jasso.

City Council members told News 8 they will take the public's comments into consideration and re-tweak the proposed maps.

"When you look at what the African-Americans are trying to achieve, what the Latinos, their population has risen to, you simply have to draw maps will represent those concerns," said Council member Dwaine Caraway.

The Council has to vote on a final map by October 15.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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