Monday, July 25, 2011

First Dallas ISD Redistricting Meetings started 7/25/11

This evening the first Dallas ISD redistricting meetings happened.  I attended the one at Bryan Adams High School.  There were 14 people in attendance. I heard afterward that nobody showed up at the other meeting on the other side of Dallas at Medrano Middle School.  Testimony this evening by a very articulate recent college graduate, from the New Tejas Project, about the need for both printed and online redistricting materiels in Spanish as well as English may help explain the lack of attendance at Medrano Middle School.  It is located in a Dallas City Council District that is almost 70% Hispanic. 

These meetings are managed by staff from Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado and Acosta LLP who are on contract with DISD to manage the redistricting process. A court reporter attempted to record all testimony.  Most of it appeared to center around questions relating to the redistricting process and differences between the four maps, and who made them.  In summary the following most critical points emerged:
  1. Need for more print and online materiels in both Spanish and English explaining the redistricting process, as applied within DISD, was obvious.
  2. There must be public access to both online and/or computer workstation software and databases to allow redistricting maps to be drawn by the public for submission. (If a political entity like DISD does not provide such public access then only firms or individuals with the significant resources needed for such data bases and software can effectively provide usable input for map design.  Demographic data from 2010 census is critical.)
  3. Information on compactness of each district is very important if we are seeking to create the most efficient districts possible. No information on the compactness of the current DISD district map, or the four proposed, was available, not even district perimeter or area.  It is much easier for a trustee to represent a more compact area than some of the gerrymandered districts within DISD. 
  4. There needs to be a public record of every meeting placed online and available.  (A videotape of the meeting may also be helpful but the expense may prohibit this.)
  5. The need for maps with high school attendance zones to help in redistricting process, and in generating public interest, was mentioned by several present.  
This is a new process for board members as well. Two local members were present this evening, Ms. Nutall and Mr. Perrott.  They were obviously working hard to facilitate the process. 

As the power behind redistricting becomes better understood the redistricting process will attract increased public interest.  DISD would do well to consult with the Dallas City Council redistricting staff who appear to be far ahead in the process.  But how can DISD do it all for about 38% of the $650,000 the City of Dallas has budgeted for this process?   A new map of more compact trustee districts, that will both preserve and produce a dedicated board to accurately reflect Dallas, is well worth the investment.

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