San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 11th, 2011
Hays County commissioners cull redistricting plans


The Hays County Commissioners Court effectively whittled down the field of possible redistricting maps from 10 to four during a public hearing on Tuesday.

Hays County Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, a San Marcos Democrat, said she favors Plans O and P, which are almost identical. Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant, a Dripping Springs Republican, drew Plan O and says he prefers it to the others.

Meanwhile, Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones, a Kyle Republican, says he favors Plan M1 or Plan M2, both of which he drew. Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley was not at the hearing but Jones said Conley favors one of the M maps.

Thus, the commissioners appear split on how to apportion the corridor cities including San Marcos that saw the most population growth in the last decade, especially in the Kyle and Buda areas where gains were the steepest.

Commissioners chose the four redistricting proposals from among the last round of 10 plans that were vetted by the county’s redistricting committee and by their redistricting attorney, Rolando Rios.

Precinct 1 has a larger proportion of Hispanics than the other precincts, and the proposed plans preserve this trait. The proportion of Hispanics in Precinct 1 in the maps favored by Jones and Conley is about five percentage points less than those favored by Whisenant and Ingalsbe.

In all four plans, Hispanics comprise the largest voting age population in Precinct 1, while Anglos comprise the largest voting age population in the other precincts.

The largest difference between the four maps in terms of voting age population occurs between the pair of plans preferred by Ingalsbe and Whisenant and the pair preferred by Jones and Conley. The difference lies in the proportion of Hispanics of voting age compared to Anglos of voting age in Precinct 1.

In Plans M1 and M2, Hispanics of voting age comprise 34.63 percent and 34.41 percent of Precinct 1, respectively, while Anglos of voting age constitute 32.65 percent and 32.96 percent of Precinct 1, respectively.

In Plans O and P, Hispanics of voting age comprise 37.62 percent and 37.62 percent of Precinct 1, respectively, while Anglos of voting age constitute 30.26 percent and 30.35 percent of Precinct 1, respectively.

Rios, whom the court also hired in 1990 and 2000, said the U.S. Justice Department requires a sufficient percentage of citizens in each proposed precinct who are of voting age. Rios said the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case he won resulted in justices ruling that redistricting plans cannot call for smaller voting age populations. Rios said none of the proposed commissioner precinct plans result in voting age population shrinkage.

The federal government requires the creation of districts with a total population deviation of no more than 10 percent between their most heavily populated district and the least populated district. The 10 percent deviation is measured against the “ideal” or target population for the governmental entity based on the most recent census.

The population deviation between the proposed new precincts range from 9.44 percent (in Plan M2) and 5.25 percent (in Plan P).

Hays County Judge Bert Cobb, a San Marcos Republican, has declined to say which of the plans he prefers because, he said, he does not want to unduly influence the commissioners’ choice.

“These maps on the wall are all legal,” Cobb said. “But we must understand there’s a difference between legal, moral, and ethical. What is always legal is not always moral or ethical. My job is to see that this court is doing their job fairly and legally. It’s up to the commissioners to decide what map they will adopt, they get that privilege…this is a very difficult job, and one that they have taken very seriously, they’ve not done this lightly and they understand the ramifications of their decision.”

The commissioners court may choose one of the four plans after a 1:30 p.m. public hearing on Aug. 16.

All four plans defy the wishes of the city councils of Buda and Kyle, who last week registered their opposition to Kyle being split among more than two commissioner precincts. The redistricting process has been notable for the amount of opposition from Kyle residents, some of whom have said splitting Kyle in three would water down their influence on the commissioners court.

During Tuesday’s public hearing on redistricting, Kyle City District 3 member Brad Pickett and Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson told commissioners their city passed a resolution last Tuesday that opposes lopping off parts of western Kyle into a third commissioner’s precinct. The resolution, approved by a 6-0 vote, asks commissioners to “formulate a redistricting plan that maintains the city of Kyle into no more than two precincts in order to preserve the city’s unique community of interest and the citizens of Kyle.” Johnson and Pickett did not publicly endorse any existing redistricting plan.

The commissioners court did not choose Plan N, which called for a portion of Wimberley and all of Woodcreek and Dripping Springs to be in Precinct 4. The plan had the initial support of Ingalsbe, though she said it would be politically futile to pursue as a realistic goal. Plan N has the support of county residents who generally say the population of western Hays County is too small to have the influence on the court that it does. Most people in Hays County live to the east, along the Interstate 35 corridor.

Because the Kyle area has grown so much over the last 10 years, commissioners must decrease Precinct 2’s population. Much of the redistricting debate thus far has been over what portions of Kyle should be included in the other precincts, notably Precinct 4. Kyle residents opposed to being included in Precinct 4 have said their they have too little in common with Dripping Springs in terms of issues dealt with by county commissioners.

At Tuesday’s public hearing (which, unlike the previous, featured the proposed maps on walls for viewing), three members public told commissioners they favored Plan N. Those who registered support for both Plans O and P numbered two, though one of them said Plan N would be ideal but politically impossible. Two members of the public expressed support for only Plan O. Two people — both from Buda — told commissioners they favored Plan M1.

Rios said the county cannot legally hold elections until it completes the redistricting process.

“As far as I can tell from the law, these (redistricting plan) are all constitutional and would probably be approved by the (U.S.) Justice Department,” Rios said. “And the public should know, once they (commissioners) adopt a plan, these plans will go the Justice Department…and there’ll be two months for public comment — you can still comment to the Justice Department if you don’t agree with it.”

Under all the plans favored by commissioners, Precinct 1 would lose territory on the west side of Interstate 35 to Precincts 4 and 2 from at least Hopkins Street in San Marcos northward. Under all the plans, Precinct 1 would lose land between Aquarena Springs Drive and Hopkins Street to Precinct 4. Two of the plans favored by Jones and Conley would remove even more territory from Precinct 1 in that area — the region south of Hopkins Street, north of the railroad tracks, and east of LBJ Drive would be in Precinct 4.

Under Plans M1 and M2, Precinct 4 gains Hometown Kyle, while Plans O and P leave that community in Precinct 2.

Plan M1 appears to leave slightly more territory in Precinct 1 between Hopkins Street and Interstate 35 than Plan M2.

Under all plans favored by commissioners, Precinct 1 loses territory to Precinct 3 on the southwest side of Ranch Road 12 (formerly the Wonder World Drive Extension), in San Marcos, and Precinct 1 keeps all territory east of Interstate 35 in San Marcos.

Under Plans O and P, Precinct 4 keeps the vast majority of its territory west of Hilliard Road in the San Marcos area, while Plans M1 and M2 give to Precinct 3 this region, which includes the communities of Rocky Ranch Acres, Valley View West, Valley View Ranch, Oak meadows, and Highlands Section B.

Plan O includes a portion of Palomino Acres community, which is north of Kyle in this city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Plan P, by comparison, includes most or all of Palomino Acres. Plan O includes a few more city blocks in San Marcos south of Hopkins Street than does Plan P.

The far eastern communities of Savannah Ridge, Woods of Brushy Creek, Green Pastures, Great Hills, The Railyard, 35 South Ranches, Bent Tree Estates, Creeks Landing would be included in Precinct 1 under Plans O and P, while these communities would fall within Precinct 2 under Plans M1 and M2.

Plans M1 and M2 take the communities of Bent Tree Estates, Creeks Landing from Precinct 1.

Plans O and P take the communities of Savannah Ridge, Woods of Brushy Creek, Green Pastures, Great Hills, The Railyard, 35 South Ranches from Precinct 2.

Under Plans M1 and M2 Precinct 4’s eastern boundary would not stretch into the City of Hays, while Plans O and P include the eastern part of that city in Precinct 2. Under Plans M1 and M2, Precinct 2 loses Steeplechase, Prairie on the Creek, and the Trails in Kyle to Precinct 1, while Plans O and P keep those communities in Precinct 2.

Under Plans O and P, Precinct 2 keeps the Kyle communities of Indian Paintbrush and Amberwood, while Plans M1 and M2 put these communities in Precinct 1.

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4 thoughts on “Hays County commissioners cull redistricting plans

  1. Before anyone gets too hung up on the numbers for “Hispanics of voting age” mentioned in paragraphs 9 and 10, be it known that these numbers are not correct and need to be recalculated. This is not the fault of the author of this article, but apparently the error originated with the consulting firm hired by the county. As of 3 pm Friday (the 12th) the new numbers had not yet been posted on the county’s maps.

  2. Plan O would not defy the wishes of the Kyle City Council – as stated in their Redistricting Resolution, Plan O would keep Kyle in 2 precincts.

    The M maps all split up Kyle into 3 precincts. These maps also have the worst statistical numbers. Not a good choice for Hays County.

  3. If Plan O were adopted, areas along Interstate 35 within Kyle’s southern city limits would no longer be in Precinct 2, they would be in Precinct 4; Election Precinct 223, which is within Kyle’s city limits, would no longer be in Precinct 2, it would be in Precinct 4; most of Kyle’s western ETJ would no longer be in Precinct 2, it would be in Precinct 4; and the Kyle ETJ communities of Oak Mesa and Arroyo Ranch would no longer be in Precinct 2, they would be in Precinct 4. Therefore, Kyle would be split between Precincts 1, 2, and 4. Most of the area within Kyle’s city limits would be in Precincts 1 and 2. Much of Kyle’s ETJ would be in Precinct 4.

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