Thursday, November 10, 2011

Letter Sent 11-10-11 to the Department of Justice

November 10, 2011

T. Christian Herren, Jr.
Chief, Voting Section, Civil Rights Division
United States Department of Justice, Room 7254–NWB
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530.

Re: Comment under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, City Council, Dallas, Texas, file # 2011– 4417

Dear Mr. Herren:

I write with great concern about the gerrymandered Dallas City Council redistricting map that was sent on 10-24-11 to your offices for approval. I'm a recently retired Dallas ISD teacher who has lived in Dallas for 36 years. I've spent most of the past 7 months working as a citizen volunteer providing input in the redistricting process. Here are my concerns:

  1. The approved map severely endangers potential black representation by ignoring population movement patterns. While the approved map shows three black minority majority districts according to the 2010 census, these districts are unnecessarily and dangerously weak. Due to the history of black population movement to North Dallas since 2000, the black 50.76% majority that existed 18 months ago in District 7, when the 2010 Census was taken, now almost certainly no longer exists above 50%. Over 20% of the 2000 District 7 black population had been lost by the time of the 2010 Census. There is no indication this black exodus has stopped. This week DISD identified 41 schools with dropping enrollments and in danger of closing. The majority of those schools were in Districts 7 & 4. As of the 2010 Census District 4 had lost 17% of its 2000 black population. Five years from now it is almost certain District 4 will also no longer be over 50% black. These losses are unnecessary! It was proven in wPlan03c submitted by Rawlings that three much stronger, more compact black districts can be created that will easily last the next decade as black minority majority districts. Also, due to the movement of black population to North Dallas, there is now an even stronger black community that remains fragmented between Districts 10, 11, and 13. It could be made into a winnable minority district.
  2. The approved map does not represent the Dallas Hispanic Community accurately. The city’s population is over 42% Hispanic, but only 4 of the 14 city council districts, or 29%, in the approved map, have a Hispanic majority population. Also one of those four districts will probably not last 5 years. Due to population movements over the past decade it is safe to predict that District 2 will not remain over 50% Hispanic by 2016. When such dramatic differences are reflected in redistricting, something is wrong. Differences in voting should only be made visible in the voting booth, with election results, not beforehand in a redistricting map! With wPlan03c by Rawlings it is proven that 5, not 4, more compact and stronger Hispanic majority minority districts can be created. An additional Hispanic minority opportunity district can also be created for a 6th district, an opportunity district, that is 42% Hispanic. With 6 out of 14 districts as potentially winnable Hispanic districts, that makes for potential Hispanic representation in 43% of the 14 city council seats in a town with a population that was 42.35% Hispanic 18 months ago, and is now certainly above 43%.
  3. Contrary to guidelines regarding minority representation, white districts disproportionately dominate the approved map. While only 29% of Dallas population is white, 43% of districts, six districts, are white majority districts. Minority communities are fragmented so as to achieve this imbalance. Some people confuse voting with redistricting and therefore speak of citizenship numbers or child population numbers in attempts to justify this type imbalance. Such factors should only be reflected in the voting booth, not at the redistricting table! Yes, there are districts that may be minority majority districts that will be won by non-minority candidates due to the simple fact of heavier white voting in many minority communities. But that is not a factor to be used in redistricting. That happens in the voting booth, where it should. By it's very existence this factor encourages minorities and their children to register to vote as soon as they are able. But such encouragement only happens when non-voters can easily see that their votes can make a difference. Such encouragement only happens when the redistricting process was done justly, with compact districts, and the proper power of the vote is restored, and maintained!
  4. Contrary to the guidelines, and the consistent requests from the large majority of speakers at all 10 of the public input meetings, the approved map remains terribly gerrymandered. Community assets are thereby separated from the residents throughout Dallas. The redistricting guidelines approved by the Dallas City Council were followed more closely by the public, who designed and submitted over 20 maps, than they were by either the Commission or the Council itself. Almost all of the publicly created maps were more compact and less gerrymandered than the approved map created by the City Council. The approved map still has over 40 excess miles of boundary lines due to gerrymandering, miles of boundary lines that do not exist in wPlan03c by Rawlings.
  5. Contrary to guidelines mandating neutrality as to the address of incumbents, these addresses seemed to drive the redistricting process toward the approved map! Notice the strange arms sticking out to the east from District 3. Frequent statements during council meetings document the importance of council member addresses in the minds of many council members during redistricting. Fortunately these and related statements are recorded.
Please, do not approve the map submitted to your office for approval by the Dallas City Council on 10-24-11. The above are only some of the major reasons it is defective. It is a major setback for the democratic process in Dallas.
After attending all of the public hearings, and all of the Redistricting Commission meetings, I had the good fortune to complete the wPlan03c Map that was then improved and presented to the City Council by Mayor Rawlings. It was the only citizen created map presented to the Council. The wPlan03c map enjoyed popularity with the public and was endorsed by virtually all of the print media in Dallas. If you google “redistricting” and “betzen” there are about 2,000 hits related to this map and these endorsements, including 4 supportive editorials from the Dallas Morning News. This map and these published endorsements were included in the material sent by the city to your offices.

The final wPlan03c version submitted by Mayor Rawlings is compact, with 40 fewer miles of district boundary lines than the approved map you are now considering. By eliminating gerrymandering, and since 71% of the Dallas population is minority, this map provides the strongest minority representation of any map created. It has 8 minority majority districts and 2 strong minority opportunity districts. Thus the potential exists for Dallas, with a 71% minority population, to have 71% of the Dallas City Council, or 10 out of 14 seats, occupied by members of the Dallas minority communities.

However, due to multiple factors, including the wonderfully large families in our Latino community, these percentages may over-represent current voting potential, potential that will certainly grow as these children reach voting age.

The goal in writing now is to document the flaws in the approved map sent to your offices on 10-24-11, and to show what is possible as demonstrated with one map, the wPlan03c map, online at .

Since April I have been maintaining an online record of this redistricting process. It is in a blog at . That record may provide information that will help in the critical decisions you are making. It would also be an honor to spend time helping you, or any of your staff, in any way possible to help secure a much more representative map than the one sent to you for consideration by the Dallas City Council.
Thank you for the work you are doing to help our democracy function. It is critical work!

Bill Betzen
Dallas, Texas
A copy of the above letter was also emailed to .

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