Leading Houston's New Council Districts

Tomorrow morning seven new Houston Councilmembers will be sworn in to office. Two of them will have an additional learning curve ahead — as they develop entirely new council districts.

In 2010, the U.S. Census confirmed something that most Houstonians already knew — the city is growing — which meant the city had to add two more council seats and redraw district lines.

Districts J and K are the result of that effort.

Mike Laster is an attorney with the firm Williams, Birnberg and Anderson. He has lived in what is now District J for about 14 years.

He says it's exciting, but also hard to say right now what it will be like to launch a whole council district.

"Every day is an ongoing learning experience. I'm a baby city councilmember as well. So I think we're all going to learn in this game together. But the nuts and bolts are going to be the same as any district. And that is reaching out to the community, making sure that all of the civic leaders and engaged and invited to the table. We're going to be doing additional things in the sense of reaching out to communities that have not been invited and empowered."

District J stretches from the edge of the Galleria area all the way south to West Belfort, and includes the Harwin district and Chinatown. The area has been referred to as the Ellis Island of Houston.

"We are a safe community, a thriving community, a place where you would want to not only bring your family to live, but to reposition your business to grow. The people of District J are hardworking, decent, good people. And I believe, earnestly, that because of our international background, we will be the conduit through which much of the city's international economic development will come."

In an office several miles away, Larry Green is busy addressing invitations to his inauguration party. Green is the CEO of Houston Works, a jobs placement nonprofit. He's a life-long Houston resident who grew up in District K.

"When the new lines were drawn, you know I had no intention of ever running for office in life. But when they drew the new lines and the Hiram Clark area was smack-dab in the middle of the district, I saw an opportunity perhaps to get on board, to not only better that neighborhood, but also the entire District K area."

Green says one of the biggest concerns in his district is food deserts, with grocery stores few and far between, and the lack of retail and economic growth.

"One of my focuses will be essentially paying attention to our inner city neighborhoods. What's inside of the beltway, if you will. And so we have got to spur economic development. We don't want a blighted city like Detroit and whatnot, where we have all this economic activity outside of the doughnut, but nobody's taking care of the doughnut hole. And so I have the opportunity to talk about the great neighborhoods and show the great amenities that we have within our district."

Green and Laster are just two of the seven freshmen councilmembers, who have dubbed themselves the Magnificent
Seven.

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...