“Fernando Florez is 80 years old and has lived in Fort Worth’s City Council District 9 since the 1960s. The self-described Tejano has never had a council representative who looked like him.
“Florez lives in the historically Hispanic South Hemphill Heights area, just a mile west of TCU.
“He remembered his neighborhood in the 1980s ‘was in bad shape; the crime rate: unbelievable.’
“He began to believe that the interests of the Hispanic Southside were being overshadowed by the majority white wealthy neighborhoods surrounding TCU in District 9, where streets were safer.
“’A few precincts down there in Tanglewood were winning the election,’ Florez said of city council elections in the early ‘90s. ‘Hispanics didn’t have a voice. We didn’t matter.’
“The concerns of Florez and others who feel they have been cut out of the democratic process take on renewed weight as Fort Worth prepares to redraw its city council district lines, as is done every 10 years following the census. The process takes on added importance – and the potential for different problems – this cycle, as Fort Worth will add two city council districts to account for growth, for a total of 10 districts.
“Redistricting, nationally and in Texas, has a history of being discriminatory, going back to the days of segregation. Minority populations were split to dilute their voting power or clumped in a few districts to provide limited representation. Protecting the seats of incumbents can take precedence over ensuring equitable minority representation.
“Fort Worth is trying to involve more citizens in the redistricting process this time in the interest of making the process more transparent. But, as of now, the council will draw and approve the final map, though some residents say forming an independent commission would remove politics from the equation.
“Those who favor an independent redistricting process are particularly concerned about Hispanic representation. Hispanics make up around 35 percent of the city’s population, but District 2, which takes in the city’s majority Hispanic Northside, has been the only council district to have a Hispanic representative…”