Houston Outgrows Its Government

The Houston City Council could grow by two members soon, but city officials want to delay redistricting until after the 2010 census. As Laurie Johnson reports — although a lawsuit has been filed against the city for delaying on redistricting — councilmembers voted to hold off on drawing up new district lines.

The Houston City Charter calls for districts to be redrawn when the city population exceeds 2.1 million. City officials long ago acknowledged we crossed that threshold. But Mayor Bill White says they need accurate and exhaustive data to legally and fairly redraw the district lines — the kind of data that will come from the 2010 federal census.

"The census will be hiring huge numbers of people, and the mailing will be made to every household and those that don't return by mail every door will be knocked at least twice."

It's already clear two more council seats will have to be created based on the increased population. Some people, like Councilmember Melissa Noriega, say the city needs to consider the needs of citizens who may be underrepresented.

"There are some strong feelings in the community that, at least in some neighborhoods and arenas, that we should go ahead and address this or consider doing it. And  I have been going back and forth over this, trying to decide whether I was going to vote for this or vote no. And I'm going to vote no. And the reason is that I think those folks need to know that someone heard them."

Noriega and Jolanda Jones were the only dissenting votes on the subject.

Councilmember Sue Lovell was the most vigorous supporter of the administration's position to hold off on redistricting.

"No one has told me how we would count, if we wanted to do it today, which method we would use. The census is determined to be the best."

As it stands now, the city will wait until a new mayor is in office to tackle the sticky subject of redistricting, unless current litigation forces their hand.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio news.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...