Third Ward resident and activist Ken Rodgers making comments during the recent HCC Redistricting Community Forum
Third Ward resident and activist Ken Rodgers making comments during the recent HCC Redistricting Community Forum on Tuesday, Jan 17, 2023 at Emancipation Park. Photo by Aswad Walker.

Following up the meeting she called and led last November, HCC trustee Dr. Reagan Flowers held another HCC Redistricting Community Forum Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 to reiterate the point that an issue some consider a boring and inconsequential has the potential to open the door for the future erosion of Houston’s Third Ward.

Lisa McBride, partner, Thompson & Horton, LLC. Photo by Aswad Walker.

This latest meeting was held at Emancipation Park, an iconic Third Ward institution that is not part of HCC District 4 that covers most of Third Ward, but since the 2010 redistricting, was left out, along with SHAPE Community Center, Jack Yates High School, Cuney Homes and other Tre landmarks.

Fielding most of the questions were Lisa McBride, a partner in Thompson & Horton, LLP, and Flowers. Thompson & Horton is the law firm the HCC administration hired to do create the redistricting maps. Trustee Robert Glaser (District V) was in attendance, while trustees Pretta VanDible Stallworth (District IX) and Adriana Tamez (District III) phoned in comments. McBride stressed that her role at the meeting was to gather and record community comments gathered and take those back to her law firm for consideration in tweaking the map.

HCC board members will be hosting more single-member district community forums to get feedback and suggestions in order to guide their final decisions regarding what the end result redistricting map looks like.

IMPORTANT DATES

Feb. 15: Formal public hearing on maps under consideration, with the board receiving a summary of website and community meeting public comments.

Feb. 28: Deadline to submit proposed maps.

Feb. 28: Deadline to submit public comments.

Feb. – April: Between February and April, the board is scheduled to make more tweaks to one to two maps.

April 19: Final decision on the HCC redistricting map (six months in advance of the Nov. 2023 election).

Current HCC Single-Member District IV

COMMENTS FROM ATTENDEES

This map (the proposed HCC Redistricting map) doesn’t match HISD. It doesn’t match District D. This map is different that Super Neighborhoods and Complete Communities. And so, it deals with your representation, but also what it deals with is with putting a map out there, that says to anybody else who wants to redistrict, here’s an example of what you can do. That you can come in  and you can take a historical community—Third Ward—a Complete community, community of interest, and you can slice it up. And we’ve lived it. We lived it through EaDo (East Downtown, which used to be considered part of Third Ward). We lived it through the Museum District (parts of which used to be considered Third Ward). Some would say, some of Midtown. So, if you keep slicing away, we’ve got some of our historical churches that are getting federal dollars because it’s in a historical area. Well, it may not be called this if we keep chipping away. How do we protect these monuments if we don’t have them within those communities of interest who understand their importance just like this park that was paid for be freed slaves who wanted to have a place to celebrate their emancipation? In 1872 they purchased this park. But how is this park not a part of the Greater Third Ward. It’s now a park of (HCC) District III. So, we’re the example to the rest of the world of what you can do if we don’t protect that. And I think that’s across all communities. I wouldn’t go into any other community, whether it was Asian, Island Pacific or Hispanic or Cuban and say “I’m going to take part of your community” because I understand how much that should matter to you and how sacred that is and it should be protected. (Dr. Reagan Flowers)

You took that (the section of Third Ward removed from HCC District IV and placed in District III during the 2010 HCC map redistricting) out of Third Ward which is full of landmarks that belong in Third Ward, that says it’s Third Ward: Emancipation Park, Eldorado Ballroom, Cuney Homes, Yates High School, that describes to the rest of the world that it’s Third Ward. And you guys have sliced it up, cracked it and packed it, and moved it somewhere else…  If we’re going to redraw, let’s put Third Ward back together again. This is our ask. (Ken Rodgers, community activist)

If we changed everything, then we lose another Black trustee. So, we’re gonna take out from that other area where Dr. Pretta, who is another Black member, (represents) and we’re gonna say, “In order to change this we’re gonna take from you so much so that you may not get re-elected.” And so, the end result is I get one Black trustee in Third Ward, and the Black trustee gets the position she wants, but the other trustee may lose her seat… There’s no such thing as changing one neighborhood without affecting all neighborhoods. The other question is, so if you get your will and your way and you get what you want, how many districts will you affect? I think the answer will be that you will affect four to five districts… And then Third Ward is all together, but we take from so many other districts we dilute our representation in other areas. So, I don’t think that we can just look at this and say, “Well, we just want Third Ward.” We have to look at how that affects other districts…  You’ve got to be smart enough to know in this consideration that moving one district is going to affect others. So, never let somebody just give you one side of the story and get you all riled up. And understand that you’re going to basically cause wars between two Black neighborhoods without recognizing there needs to be a holistic change.        (Deidre Rasheed, Hiram Clarke-area HOA president)

Single-Member District III is about 17,000 under-populated. If we give all of this area in green back to Single-Member District IV, that’s about 17,000 people. Single-Member District III becomes 34,000 people under-populated. And the question is, where do we get those 34,000 people? (Lisa McBride, partner, Thompson & Horton)

I am very concerned that we have in Houston Community College, a lot of experts that can’t come up with a solution that doesn’t pit one community against another. I’m a longtime resident of Third Ward. I have a lot of family ties here. I love the people and I don’t want to see our neighborhoods destroyed. Now, does that mean I want to tear up Sunnyside? Absolutely not. Because I see Sunnyside as a historic community. This fight is not against other neighborhoods. It’s against HCC’s inability to come up with a map that satisfies a historic community. And I say to those other communities out there, Hiram Clarke, Sunnyside and all of them, if you want us in the fight with you, we’ll be there. This is what we’re speaking about. And we have every right to speak up about it.I don’t know who that person was, but we are not against those communities. I feel that we are being used in this process to pick at each other… Why I don’t like the map that’s being proposed is that like I said, it separates people who traditionally have worked, lived, played and worshiped together. They divide institutions, non-profits, historic places that define our community. They place unnecessary burdens on citizens of Third Ward to understand and access the power of the community colleges. You’ve divided us. I thought Emancipation Park was in the district that I live in. I thought that Jack Yates was in. Now, come on. That is confusing citizens. And I don’t think that that should be the criteria of the board… At the end of the day, you’ve got a large city. You made the decision to annex those other areas that also created problems here. Solve the problem. Keep the community together. I need to understand more about the issue around Hiram Clarke, and all that. But putting Emancipation Park, Project Row Houses, putting Jack Yates and all of that in their district is not the solution. These communities have traditionally voted together, done voting drives together, and all of that. Now, you’re dividing and confusing us. And regardless of what happened 10 years ago (HCC map redistricting that originally removed a large portion of Third Ward, with Yates, Cuney Homes, Project Row Houses, etc. out of HCC District IV) does not make it right today… You need to reimagine the whole thing. (Dolores Rodgers, community activist)