How large is the city?
It's a go for two new Houston city council districts
Houston city council voted on Wednesday to certify the city's population at 2.1 million and add two new district seats.
The addition of two new single-member districts, Districts J and K, was required by the city charter in 1979 as soon as the population reached that number. But Mayor Parker's plans to continue with the redistricting were challenged when 2010 census data marked the official number of inhabitants in Houston at 2,099,451 million, a little over 500 people short of the expansion requirement.
During a special session called on Tuesday, council members debated fiercely over what data could legally be used to justify finding more or less than the 2.1 million people. Redistricting consultant Jerry Wood testified that census data contained errors in drawing the boundaries of the city. When the census numbers were adjusted with the neighborhoods in question included, the population figure would exceed 2.1 million — by about 17, Wood said.
Council members Brenda Stardig and Mike Sullivan voiced concerns about the cost of the additional seats and the resulting decrease in their budgets and voting power. Asked about the consequences of not adding the seats, city attorney David Feldman said the city would "almost certainly" be sued and that the legal delay could place Houston in a "legal quagmire" and put the fall elections on hold or in jeopardy.
But with Parker incorporating Woods' numbers to represent the census count as crossing the 2.1 million threshold, the holdouts on the council seemed to be out of ammunition.
"The reality is we have a majority-minority city and we do not have a majority-minority council," said council member Jolanda Jones, who had seemed skeptical in earlier talks. "We have got to stop fighting it."
When the final votes went through, Stardig was the lone no vote on declaring the population at 2.1 million, and once that passed Sullivan was the sole holdout on the vote to add the two council seats. Both measures passed 13-1 with council member Wanda Adams absent.
Now it looks like these debates were just the beginning — let the redistricting fight begin.