Will we see the same old same old on redistricting reform?
If the BAD Petition Bill, SB 323, is passed by the Texas Legislature, it will hinder initiatives like the one brewing now in Fort Worth to establish a Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission. Heavy-handed politicians who want to control you like it that way.
As it stands, the Fort Worth City Council is leaning towards a system of internal control for the next round of redistricting. Each of the eight councilmembers would appoint one member to an eleven-member Redistricting Committee while the Mayor would appoint three, based on expertise (What kind of expertise?). Pretty much incumbents drawing their own districts, yet again. Like Internal Affairs divisions of police departments who are notorious for protecting their own, a majority of incumbent councilmembers will not readily cede their power to do the same. FW citizens must take it from them.
To her credit, Councilmember Ann Zadeh suggested a Redistricting Task Force to explore options for a better way. Perhaps even an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) like the one in Austin. However, that might take another year. Reformers do well not to defer and wait. We should start to build a coalition outside of City Hall to lend backing to whatever sincere efforts might evolve within, or to override those on the Council who prefer to gerrymander.
Generally, a ballot initiative will require 20,000 valid signatures within 180 days. (Editor's note: Austin voters passed the only independent citizens redistricting commission in Texas -- to draw their city lines -- by passing the "10-1" petition in 2012.)
So, what might a citywide redistricting coalition look like and what are steps one, two and three to building it?
Please submit your views to us so that we might work together.
Jeff Harper – Board Member of the League of Independent Voters of Texas