by: Pat Hernandez, March 18, 2011 8:03:00 pm
Census figures show that Houston has reached a population of about 2.1 million residents, the trigger point necessary for adding two additional council district seats.
Ronald Green is Houston's city controller. He says until 1971, the makeup of council was all male and all white. The 1979 ordinance called for a change.
"As the city began to become more diverse, then certainly those diverse groups sought more representation. We've got populations that don't speak English as a first language, and so some of those areas make up a district of their own, potentially. So that's why you went to the district council member system."
The building services director is now doing an assessment of the available space at city hall for the addition of two new offices. Green says the cost will be about 400-thousand dollars for each new district:
"Some of the offices may be a little smaller. But I think that once we get the architectural plans in order, I think the citizens of Houston will know that the money was well spent."
While the vote to expand council was not unanimous, Green says the extra money needed to add districts J & K will benefit the city in the long run.
"What it essentially boils down to is that, I think, you probably will see a faster response time. The other side of that is there will be more services, but the general idea behind the population growth is that we could probably be eligible for more federal funding. Obviously at the end of the day, we hope that the benefits will end up happening as well."
Council will vote on the new district lines in May followed by approval of the Justice Department, and before the election filing deadline in September.