Redistricting Splits City Council

Houston councilmembers are wading through an emotional debate on the city's redistricting plans. At issue is whether the city will add two new council seats. Laurie Johnson has more.

The U.S. Census released its numbers for Houston about two weeks ago, showing the city just barely shy of the 2.1 million population mark.

Mayor Annise Parker has stated that's a clerical error and the city actually exceeds 2.1 million residents.

One way or the other, the city must go through with redistricting because council districts are materially
imbalanced.

But does that mean the city needs to add two new  districts?

Councilmember Brenda Stardig says the census doesn't support it.

"If you're going to question the credibility of the census, then you might as well question a lot of things we've got going on around here. Because right now the fact is if you say they missed here and they missed there, then did they duplicate here, did they duplicate there? Hmm! Let's start asking a lot of questions."

Stardig told the mayor she cannot and will not support adding two new district seats.

A number of district councilmembers echoed those remarks. This is Anne Clutterbuck.

"I would like to able to vote for redistricting and against adding two council seats. I urge support of this motion, Mayor, I urge you to rule the motion in order. I believe that less government is better than larger government."

The conversation at times turned passionate, with district councilmembers loudly protesting nearly every procedural move made on the subject.

They pleaded for the opportunity to vote on new council seats as a separate issue from overall redistricting. Mayor Parker agreed to their request and will hold a special council meeting to address the issue.

"There's a legitimate difference of opinion as to whether we in fact have crossed the 2.1 million mark in terms of population. But I would also like to point out that the bulk of the discussion here today was by district councilmembers, whose direct constituents are going to be affected by this discussion and perhaps their ability to get re-elected."

Councilmembers will vote some time in the coming week on whether to add two new seats to the city.

Once they make a decision, no matter which way they decide, the administration is bracing for any number of lawsuits to be filed in protest.

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...