Redistricting battles elsewhere in the country have turned into a partisan war that even the courts have struggled to sort through. In San Antonio, where new city council districts are to be established to account for the city’s roughly 100,000 new residents, the initial maps are acclaimed with nearly unanimous support from the body tasked with approving them in the coming months. .
“For the first time, we’ve tried to make the redistricting process independent of the politics of the offices they represent,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a city council meeting on Wednesday. “Obviously it’s a work in progress. … But I think it’s a good first start in redrawing the city on principle rather than policy.
Last year, the city council delegated the process of redistributing the city’s growing population among its 10 districts to a citizens’ committee – as opposed to council members who draw new district boundaries themselves. The committee released an early version of its proposed changes earlier this month, giving the public a chance to provide feedback, a process that will continue until May 31.
The 2020 census results showed the city’s 1.43 million people were unevenly dispersed across council districts, with most of the population growth occurring in the north, necessitating a rebalancing of districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits borders that would be discriminatory. on the basis of race or minority group.
On Wednesday, council members and the mayor praised the committee’s results, suggesting that residents nominated by council members had done much better than lawmakers could have done alone.
“I’m extremely happy with the process and I’m ready to throw it away [to residents]“said city councilor Teri Castillo (D5). “Whether it’s a policy or a plan, when we put it in the hands of the community, I think that’s where we get the best product.”
Council has given itself a June 9 deadline to approve the new maps, which would come into effect in early 2023, ahead of filing deadlines for the May city council elections.
Four more public hearings are scheduled across the city, which could lead to further district changes once feedback is considered.
“It’s possible they’ll come back with a different card,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said of the advisory board.
Some members are eager to set up new districts as soon as possible.
Councilman John Courage (D9) suggested on Wednesday that council move forward and adopt the new map in October when it approves the city’s budget, so candidates and voters can prepare for the changes.
“There’s something like 50,000 people, maybe more who are affected by these changes,” Courage said. “We should clearly link the budget allocations and priorities that the council will establish this summer to the districts… so that residents know who their council members are and… anyone who wants to run knows what district they live in before entering. a campaign.”
Other concerns raised by council members included the redrawing of Brackenridge Park, part of which would be moved from District 2 so that the entire 349-acre park would be in District 1.
“It would make sense on the face of it for Brackenridge Park to be in a district, but due to the nature of Brackenridge Park and its historical significance and impact on neighborhoods, this could be an exemption to that,” the councilor said. municipal Jalen McKee-Rodriguez. (D2).