Houston Challenges Census Numbers

The City of Houston is challenging the U.S. Census Bureau on the results of the city's population count. Houston Mayor Annise Parker says the federal government did not get an accurate count of citizens in unincorporated areas. Laurie Johnson reports.

The new census numbers show Houston has just under 2.1 million residents. But Mayor Parker says she's confident the city is actually just over 2.1 million because of small annexed areas in various parts of the region that were not included in the count.

"We absolutely believe, for a fact, that we are above the 2.1 million because of some minor errors on the borders of Houston as to who should have been included and who not. And we're going to proceed on that basis. It's not a matter of wanting to redistrict or not wanting to redistrict, we just have to redistrict and we're going to move ahead."

The redistricting issue comes into play because the city is required by charter to redraw city council lines and add two new council seats when the population reaches 2.1 million people.

But Councilmember Mike Sullivan says the folks in those special annexations shouldn't be counted.

"I don't think the city is respecting the census bureau's work at this time. It is the federal government, those are the numbers that we have to recognize and have to respect."

Sullivan also says adding the new districts will cost more than $2 million dollars, an expense he thinks the city can't justify.

For her part, Parker says she doesn't like the hassle of redistricting any more than the next person, but it's something that must be done.

"A budget is not an excuse to deny people their full representation, nor is the budget an excuse to ignore a consent decree that we have been respecting for 30 years that is now in our charter. So it's not a matter of want to, it's a matter of have to."

Citizens in the disputed areas are represented by and vote for the mayor and councilmembers; however, they do not vote for city controller or bond issues.
 

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...