During the morning portion of today's city council meeting, Mayor Mike Rawlings told his colleagues he's been "doing some thinking" about redistricting. Lord, haven't we all. In reviewing what the Redistricting Commission has done, he said, "I believe the transparency was there." This, of course, despite recent complaints by Ruth Morgan, chair of said commission, that the transparency was decidedly not there.
Rawlings didn't address Morgan's concerns about Domingo Garcia's meetings with other commissioners directly and said only, "If you look at the voting records of each of the folks around that commission, I believe they said what they needed to say publicly and followed those things."
Rawlings then vowed to "continue that strategy of transparency," and proposed a special meeting for September 24 just to chat about redistricting, as well as allow any commissioners who want to amend maps to articulate why they want to make the changes they're proposing. For his part, Rawlings said, he's worried about issues of minority representation and what he referred to as the "tightness" of the current map. He couldn't quite get the council members to all agree on a day to meet, though. We're awaiting word on just when the proposed meeting's going to happen.
And then, Rawlings said, "don't be surprised if I have a map that I want to put in on Friday as well." That was a little unexpected. And for us, it raised another big question: Who would actually draw the mayor's map? Probably not the mayor himself, right? And does he really consider it necessary to draw up a whole new proposal?
We put these questions to both the mayor and Paula Blackmon, his chief of staff. I haven't heard back from Blackmon, but Robert got a text message from the mayor. When asked if he was really going to draw his own map, Rawlings said: "Considering it."
Update at 3:45 p.m.: Blackmon just called back to say the mayor isn't sure yet whether he'll submit a whole new map or suggest some amendments. "We're in the exploratory stages," she told us. "We've been doing that. We'll know more in 24 hours." She promised to update us tomorrow afternoon. Now jump for D.C.'s say-so.
One other redistricting-related item. We'd been wondering exactly what happens after October 5, when the city council will vote on its final map proposal and send it off to the Department of Justice, where it'll be vetted by the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division.
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There's been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about both Garcia's off-the-record meetings and whether or not the protected map purposely protects incumbents. Dallas's submission will include the media reports about these accusations. So do ethical, er, irregularities like these factor into the DOJ's decision about whether to accept or reject a city's map?
This morning, after a medium-large amount of effort, I spoke to Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman at the Department of Justice. She didn't want to speak about Dallas directly, but she said, in general, the DOJ isn't focused on looking at those issues.
"That doesn't fall under the civil rights division," she said. The DOJ really only focuses on two things: Was the map drawn with a discriminatory purpose? And: Does it cause retrogression? If those two things are absent, as far as the DOJ is concerned, the map's just fine. So far, only a few maps in the country have actually undergone the Department's scrutiny, and they were House and Senate maps from Virginia and Louisiana.
"The rest are pending," Hinojosa said. Dallas's map will soon be on that heap too, whatever it may look like.