In a straight party-line vote, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia approved a modified version of a plan presented weeks ago by Ellis. It contained an even bigger surprise than in Ellis’ original plan. And it takes gerrymandering to a whole new personal level that really strikes home.
The Old Switcheroo
The plan approved on 10/28/2021 creates two safe, predominantly Democratic precincts for Ellis and Garcia while forcing Republicans Cagle and Ramsey to run in each other’s precincts where they are relatively unknown. That will mean Republicans will have to raise and spend more money to compensate for low awareness.
Ellis’ modified plan was posted just hours before today’s special meeting on redistricting. So the public did not really have a chance to review and discuss it. However, that didn’t stop Ellis from bragging about how open and transparent the redistricting process has been.
Clever Gerrymandering of Commissioners’ Homes
County law specifies that precinct commissioners must live in the precincts they represent. Currently Ramsey lives in and represents Precinct 3; Cagle lives in and represents Precinct 4. So Ellis carefully gerrymandered the boundaries of the new Precinct 3 to include Cagle’s home and the new Precinct 4 to include Ramsey’s.
Hidalgo Calls It Payback for Not Raising Taxes
Judge Lina Hidalgo supported the last minute entry in the redistricting sweepstakes. When Cagle questioned why, she said it was payback for Republican’s walking out and blocking a tax increase earlier this year. A tax increase must be approved by a 4-1 supermajority. So when Cagle and Ramsey walked out of the meeting, Democrats did not have the votes they needed.
The map below will now define the new precinct boundaries. The other major change: Garcia’s Precinct 2 loses the heavily Republican far northeast portion of the county. That will shore up his re-election chances. Last time, he won by just 2,000 votes and his seat was widely regarded as the most vulnerable in this election, given the old precinct boundaries.
What This Will Mean
Unless Republicans can win both Precincts 3 and 4, Democrats will have a supermajority after the next election. That would basically give Democrats the power to raise taxes at will. It would also let them override the will of voters. For instance, they could shift flood-bond money between watersheds and cancel flood-bond projects, as they tried to do last Tuesday.
Cities and counties without healthy checks and balances can devolve into blatant political corruption. The next election could determine the tenor of politics in Harris County for decades to come.
The next Harris County election will be the primary in May.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/28/2021
1521 Days after Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.