It must be Christmas in July or Unfair Park's birthday or something, because there are two Redistricting Commission meetings this week. The second one is tonight, and the main event will probably be Sandra Crenshaw's presentation of her two proposed maps. We suspect she may follow that up by expanding upon the promises she made Tuesday night to lodge formal complaints with both the Department of Justice and the city's Ethics Commission over Dwaine Caraway's being allowed to submit a map through his appointed commissioner.
In advance of that particular bit of legislative excitement, this morning we called Redistricting Commission chair Ruth Morgan -- author of Governance by Decree: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act in Dallas -- to see how she thinks the process is going so far. Things got a little shouty between members of the public and the commissioners on Tuesday night. So is this what she envisioned when the commission asked ordinary citizens to get involved in the redistricting process?
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"This is not unexpected. It happens in these things," Morgan tells Unfair Park. "There's a lot at stake and a lot of passionate feelings about what is right." She adds, with a dry little laugh, "One might wish that the commissioners would be a little less passionate in their questioning, because at times I think it could be misinterpreted as an attack. When I talked to the commissioners later, though, that was not their intention."
Morgan reminds us that the commission has been meeting for almost six months without compensation. "They are very conscientious," she said. "When something goes on from February the 8th to the hot summer days of August, it's quite demanding on their time and energies and work. I think they should be credited with what they've been doing. They've been exceedingly responsive to the public and exceedingly responsive to trying to fulfill the guidelines as they were adopted at the beginning."
So far, there have been 22 maps presented in total, about 14 of them from the public. Was Morgan expecting more proposals? "Drawing a citywide map is very complicated and time-consuming," she said. "Trying to keep in the guidelines that have been developed, it's a complicated process."
One member of the public at Tuesday's meeting described redistricting as being "like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree," which is about the best summation of the process we've heard so far. Tonight's meeting is at 6 in Room 6ES at City Hall. It'll also be streamed over the city's website, for those not holding Project Runway premiere watch parties. Come for the shouting, stay because it's going to affect all of our lives for the next decade.