When City Unveils Its New Districts, It's Hoping to Avoid Mess Facing State and Dallas County

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In case you hadn't heard, the state and county redistricting processes have already gotten a tad ... heated, let's say, what with all the threats of lawsuits and the temper tantrums. The city of Dallas's Redistricting Commission is trying to avoid the same fate on the local level: Its members are hoping more "public involvement and transparency" will quell some of that (inevitable?) rancor before it arises, redistricting coordinator Peter Bratt tells Unfair Park. Also, the commission is giving itself a bit longer to redraw the city's districts, he says.

"With the state and the county, those processes had been happening in a lot shorter time period," he says. "This process is much more deliberate and much more open. Everything we've done has been put online and is being recorded."

The commission is hoping to wrap up its work by August 23, but its members -- among them such familiar names as Domingo Garcia, John Loza, Gary Griffith, Donna Halstead and Brooks Love -- will continue working into September if necessary, says commission chair and SMU professor emerita of political science Ruth Morgan, the expert on the subject. But she doesn't have any illusions that the process will be totally disagreement-free, she tells us this morning.

"I guess the nature of the product that needs to be produced generates considerable differences of opinion," she says with a kind of rueful little chuckle.

Morgan, who said back in early April she won't tolerate any shenanigans from the her committee, says she's "quite encouraged" so far. But optimism won't get the job done: "Realistically, one has to recognize there's a lot at stake in the way boundaries are drawn."

Dr. Morgan says there have been twice as many public hearings this time around than for the 2001 district redistricting process, largely because there was such widespread dissatisfaction with those boundaries.

"There were so many complaints" last time around, she says. "We're trying to get as much public input as we could this time, which does mean we have more to wade through. I think it's important the residents of the city feel they've had an opportunity and an investment in the process." At the most recent meeting of the commission, she says, more than 150 people testified.

And don't forget: You can submit your own plan through June 30. So far, around 25 people have told the commission they'll be submitting redistricting maps, and one over-achiever is planning on submitting three. Check the redistricting website for all the registration info.

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