Two proposed Dallas City Council district boundary maps are in the pipeline at City Hall. One will end up deciding who represents each part of Dallas. Some argue both of these maps could increase Latino and Black representation in the city. Others, like West Dallas advocate Debbie Solis, say they feel they’ve been left out of the process and that the result are maps that could break up their communities and make them less powerful.
A final map could be sent to the mayor and City Council early next month. Now, Solis and others are acting fast to make sure officials hear how they want to be represented so this can be reflected in the final council district boundaries.
“We’re being left out,” Solis said. “It’s just terrible.”
The two maps were narrowed down from 46 that were initially submitted. The two left are Map 17 and Map 41. Map 17 was drawn up by commissioners Randall Bryant, Bob Stimson and Roy Lopez. Map 41 was drawn by residents Melanie Vanlandingham and Darren Dattalo.
Solis said either map would split West Dallas neighborhoods currently in District 6, now represented by council member Omar Narvaez.
In Map 17, Dallas City Council District 1 would stretch into some parts West Dallas, like south of Singleton Boulevard, the area around the Mountain View Dallas College campus and Arcadia Park. This includes a part of town Solis lives in as well. In this map, District 14 would include the Bishop Arts District, Methodist Dallas Medical Center and a good portion of the North Hampton Road area south of Interstate 30.
Residents in West Dallas are more organized than just six years ago, when Solis said she initially started advocating for her community.
“We’re being left out." – Debbie Solis, West Dallas resident
“I got involved six years ago because we weren’t being heard in the city of Dallas,” Solis said. “So, we registered and we got a lot of people to vote. … We explained to them, we need to work together because we were getting gentrified without getting a voice in. Now we’re trying to stay together. We’re trying to keep the neighborhood together right now.”
She understand that the pandemic may have led to some lack of communication. Still, she said, “No one came to West Dallas to tell us what they were doing.”
Solis said she thinks that members of the Redistricting Commission have been so focused on strengthening Latino and Black representation in the city that they’re not hearing the concerns of her community. “It’s like, in every corner people are trying to just do what they want and not even think about West Dallas and our history and what we need and want.”
But it’s more than just Solis’ community that could see a split. The two final maps move a historically Black neighborhood in District 2, called the Elm Thicket NorthPark area, into the majority white District 13. Some District 2 residents oppose this.
The Redistricting Commission members responsible for Map 17 were open about their intentions: giving more power to voters of color in Dallas.
“The map is really based on the premise that we wanted to create four strong African American districts and four strong Hispanic districts,” Stimson, the commission’s District 1 representative, said at their meeting this week. Stimson said he and the other commissioners think one of the best ways to do that is to tie the North Oak Cliff area to downtown. Their map would also see District 9 include the area around White Rock Lake. The map would also extend District 2 to Far East Dallas and the Casa View area.
Under Map 41, District 2 would still be shifted to include Far East Dallas, but District 7 would then include the northwest side of Pleasant Grove.
Normal Minnis, the representative on the commission for District 14, said she supported Map 41 because she thinks it “represents the best of all the neighborhoods.”
The maps can still be tweaked though, and the commission will start working on that this Monday. There will be a hearing over the maps the following Saturday. Once a final one is chosen, City Council members have 45 days to make any amendments.