Houston to Add Two Council Seats
by: Laurie Johnson, March 9, 2011 3:03:00 pm
With a show of overwhelming support, Houston councilmembers passed the measure to expand from nine to eleven district seats in the city.
"Johnson? Yes. Johnson yes. Clutterbuck? Yes. Clutterbuck yes. Adams is absent. Sullivan? No. Sullivan no."
And so it went around the table. Councilmember Mike Sullivan was the only no vote for redistricting, although Councilmember Brenda Stardig voted no on adding new districts.
After the meeting, Mayor Annise Parker told reporters she appreciates the strong support she got from the council.
"There's some concerns on the part of councilmembers that it will cost us more to have two new council seats. Yes, the cost of operating a council office is several hundred thousand dollars for each of those two new councilmembers on an ongoing basis for the cost of operating their offices. But you really can't put a price on representation."
As the city redraws districts lines, they must make them roughly the same size with regard to population. They also must comply with the Voting Rights Act and provide adequate minority representation — in other words no jerrymandering.
"There is nothing that says we have to create a seat for any particular racial or ethnic group. What it says is that we have to make sure that our minority population here has fair access to the ballot — that we don't pack or fracture the minority voting populations."
The city will submit a new map in early April for public review. Council will vote on the new district lines by mid-May which gives the city time to get Department of Justice approval before the election filing deadline in September.