Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comparisons of 21 Dallas City Council Redistricting Plans Submitted

Below are two pages (click on them to enlarge) that compare the 21 Dallas City Council Redistricting plans that are now on the Dallas Redistricting Commission Web site.  There are 8 measurements by which they are compared: five related to demographics and three related to district compactness.

This list was shared with the Dallas City Council Redistricting Commissioners at the 7/28/11 meeting.

Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dallas City Council Redistricting Updates 7/26/11

Last nights meeting had some tense moments, but the following demographics, produced by the map below the chart, appeared to have been generally well received. (Click on chart to enlarge.)
There are 6 places in the map below where you will find that lines have been erased with white-out and new lines have been inserted. (Click on the map to see this more clearly.) These are the 6 areas where modifications are needed to wPlan03 to achieve the above demongraphic statistics.
Please note that the above map had changes made in 6 locations to produce the significantly improved percentages, up 7 percentage points, for Black voting age population in District 4 when compared with the version of wPlan03 presented to the Commission. This was achieved by following the requests of residents of Uptown Dallas to reunify their area of Dallas.  The northern boundary of District 4 was moved south from Turtle Creek to Thomas Avenue with the result that almost 8,000 in mostly Anglo population was moved from District 4 into District 14.  This necessitated 5 of the 6 corrections that were made to the original wPlan03.  That original wPlan03 is in the data base of maps being considered by the Redistricting Commission.

This change, plus one other minor change to District 8, moved the average Black voting age population (VAP) percentage for the three majority Black districts from 60.25% to 62.70%. 

Additional changes were done this morning to the western edge of District 13 in response to concerns by the District 13 Commissioner.  By moving the western boundary of District 13 from Marsh to Webb Chapel the Hispanic VAP has now risen a total of 3.66 percentage points in District 6 to 66.05%.  This led to a rise of half a percentage point, to 62.43%, as the average for the percentages of Hispanic VAP in the 5 majority Hispanic districts in the modified wPlan03.

No other map being considered by the Dallas City Council Redistricting  Commission is even close to the level of minority representation possible with these modifications to wPlan03: 62.70% Black VAP average in 3 districts and 62.43% Hispanic VAP average in 5 districts.  Wplan03 also continues to be the most compact map being considered of all the maps that also have 8 minority districts. 

Eight minority districts should be the minimum number of minority districts in any Dallas City Council map considered, and they should be strong districts, with VAP averages above 60%, unless someone manipulates the maps to make them weak.

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.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dallas ISD Redistricting Process

This morning notice was posted in the Dallas Morning News regarding the meetings that will be happening on July 25 and 26, and August 1, 2, and 4, for input related to the Dallas ISD redistricting process. The link was given ( for the DISD redistricting process information.  At that location you will find links to the four maps that are being presented as possible alternatives.   There are significant differences between the DISD redistricting process and the Dallas City Council redistricting process.

1) There is minimal, if any, opportunity for the public to actually work with the maps and submit alternatives in the DISD process.
2) Compactness is not given as a consideration, probably for many reasons not the least of which is that current DISD districts are not as gerrymandered as current Dallas City Council Districts.  Compactness measurements are not even mentioned on the DISD site.
3) Depending of which of the eventual 20+ maps being considered that the City Council Redistricting Commission chooses, it is very possible, based on the four maps being considered by DISD, that the Dallas City Council will now surpass DISD in having the least gerrymandered districts!
4) If Dallas City Council succeeds in securing the least gerrymandered districts, and DISD remains gerrymandered, it will be interesting to observe if voter turnout generally improves more in City Council elections than in DISD Board elections in the years to come.  (There may be people in Dallas dedicated to keeping voter turnout low and therefore keeping both these maps as gerrymandered as is possible. That is the sad battle that sometimes appears to be emerging.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Critical role of population centers in redistricting

After three active months working to find the best city council district map for the City of Dallas, the most valuable tool has been this map:
It is a map created following on the question from a Commissioner about creating a map with the most compact districts possible. Then it was taken one step further with the attempt to locate the 14 population centers in Dallas once Dallas is divided into 14 equal population districts.  These 14 locations are a mathematical and geographic calculation that would be identical using 2010 census numbers no matter who did the calculations, absent some mathematical error.

This is the ideal.  Any map will vary from this ideal for many reasons, probably the most significant of which would be the need to meet Voting Rights Act requirements. 

As I have made adjustments to districts I have often returned to this "population center map" to regain perspective.  The closer Dallas can come to these population centers actually also being the district population centers, the closer we will come to having districts that only require minimal changes decades into the future. Such population centering, combined with the elimination of gerrymandered appendages, will help create maps that will not require some unusual political story to go with them to explain unusual kinks or appendages 20 or 40 years from now.

Related to the Dallas Redistricting Commission, this week of July 18-22 is a week off with no meetings.  The 6 PM meetings will resume on Tuesday July 26th and continue every Tuesday and Thursday through August, or until a final map is selected for presentation to the City Council.   The data on the next 4 maps, to be presented on the 26th, should be on the City web site by Friday located at and available by clicking on Redistricting Plan Submissions for July 26th.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Comparison Statistics for Dallas City Council Redistricting Plans posted on city web site as of 7/14/11

Click on the chart below to enlarge
All of the redistricting plans presented in the above chart can be seen online at  On that site you can select the "analysis" which includes demographic and compactness statistics, in more detail.  You may also click on the map to see a map that may be enlarged to 36" by 48" to see street by street details of the proposed boundary lines. Please take the time to study these plans.  They tell you a lot about Dallas. Then attend the Tuesday/Thursday meetings, which will not resume until July 26th, and give your comments.  Beware that, if you have not called the redistricting office (214-670-5735) before 5:00 PM to be placed on the agenda as a speaker, then you must arrive and sign up before 5:55 PM if you want to speak before any Redistricting Commission meeting.  Due to the increased interest and attendance at meetings this is now being strictly enforced.

Regarding the above chart, please note the addition of the two columns titled "Lowest Black/Hispanic Voting Age %" for the respective number of districts.  This was done so as to demonstrate the "weakest" of the minority representation districts in each plan.  These numbers must be watched.    

Your questions are welcome. 
Bill Betzen

Friday, July 8, 2011

Comparison of Redistricting Plans being considered by Dallas City Council Redistricting Commission

Click on the chart below to see a larger copy.
The source for statistics charted above is the Dallas City Council Redistricting web site page at  That page is found from the Dallas City Council Redistricting homepage at  by clicking on the meeting link on the left side of the screen and then going to meeting data, and "Redistricting Plan Submissions" online for the 7/12/11 meeting.

The above chart tracks the average of the five highest district percentages for Hispanic Voting Age Population, and the average of the three highest district percentages for Black Voting Age Population.  It then also provides the lowest of these numbers for each population group to give an indication of the level all districts in each group are above.

Again, questions are welcome!
Bill Betzen

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dallas City Council Redistricting Process: an exercise of the freedoms we U.S. citizens enjoy

Last week a question was sent out by the Dallas Morning News: "Who has done the most with the freedom we have been given?" My response was one of the 18 published yesterday. On this fourth of July weekend we have much to celebrate!

Bill Betzen of Dallas: The Dallas City Council Redistricting Commission is a demonstration of freedom of speech in action. At every one of its weekly meetings, members dedicate time to allow public comment on any aspect of the City Council redistricting process and the drawing of boundaries. They listen and ask questions. The commission’s web site,, has ample documentation to explain the redistricting process and demonstrates the transparency that rules every action. This is democracy at its best. Dallas can be proud.
Hopefully, the redistricting process used by the Dallas City Council will continue to be improved and become a model for all redistricting processes nationwide. 

It is a very tedious and labor intensive process, as is evident in the 50 or so hours of video taped Dallas City Council Redistricting Commission meetings that are already recorded and online for the public to see. This is transparency as it should be.

Such transparency and public input are critical to restore the confidence needed to bring voters back to the polls. Voters need to know that their vote makes a greater difference now than at any time in our gerrymandered past!