To Help Save Vickery Meadows, Advocates Look to Boost Neighborhood's Abysmal Voter Turnout

Vickery Meadow sits just across Central Expressway from Preston Hollow, but it's a world away. One is home to multi-million dollar houses owned by the city's business and civil elite. The other is a mind-blowingly diverse pocket of 25,000 people living in low-rent, crime-plagued apartments. Both places are wrapped into a single City Council district.

It's no surprise that the district's representatives all come from the west side of Central. That's where former Councilman Mitchell Rasansky lives, as well as his successor on the horseshoe, Ann Margolin. It's also where the two (well, three) candidates vying to take her open seat hail from. That's to be expected.

That's unlikely to change anytime soon, but neighborhood advocates, as part of their bootstraps campaign to revive the area, are hoping to give Vickery Meadow more political clout. One of the keys to accomplishing that is getting more people to the polls.

Angelina Avalos, executive director of the Vickery Meadow Public Improvement District, passed along a notice announcing this morning announcing a 4 p.m. District 13 candidate forum featuring Leland Burk and Jennifer Staubach Gates. In the email, Avalos cited a jaw-dropping statistic: "During the last city council election, the number of voters who actually voted from our neighborhood was less than pathetic - just 7 voters out of 5,000 who were registered!"

Things aren't quite as bad as all that. A glance at precinct-by-precinct voting numbers shows about 3,600 registered voters in Vickery Meadows (the exact geography's a bit tough to suss out on the precinct maps). Of those, 222 cast ballots for a 6.2-percent turnout.

The exact figure isn't important. The point is that the number is abysmally low, even for a municipal election. It's half as much as the turnout for the city as a whole and a quarter of what you'll find in Preston Hollow, where the figure hovers around 25 percent. The disparity is no doubt much greater when one factors in the immigrants and felons concentrated in the neighborhood.

"[Turnout]'s very, very low," Avalos says. "That's why we don't get the attention."

And that's why the Vickery Meadow Improvement District is sponsoring the candidate forum today and why it's launching a get-out-the-vote campaign.

Avalos says the nonprofit is in the process of setting up a voter registration drive and working with the myriad agencies on the ground in Vickery Meadow, providing social and other services to encourage their clients to vote. It's not a glossy campaign. It's about educating people, about the process and about the importance of voting.

"Maybe it's that they're kind of disenfranchised," Avalos says. "Maybe they just feel as if they haven't had representation in the past. I don't think there's any one reason."

Changing those perceptions will take considerable time and effort. Avalos figures its time to get started. "This is a neighborhood that really needs city service, and if we don't have that representation, we're not going to get it."

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