A lawsuit by Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle and their supporters that sought to overturn a redistricting plan devised by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis has been dismissed by an Ellis-backed judge, Dedra Davis.
Details of Redistricting Plan
The Ellis redistricting plan swapped the numbers of Precincts 3 and 4. It also redrew the boundaries of Precincts 3 and 4 so that Ramsey’s home and Cagle’s home changed precincts. The Ellis plan has two immediate effects.
It forces Cagle and Ramsey, both Republicans, to run in each others’ precincts because commissioners must live in the precincts they represent.
The number swap will deny voters in the new precinct 3 the right to vote for commissioner in the next election. That’s because only even-numbered precincts will vote in the next election cycle for commissioners. So the Lake Houston Area will not be able to vote for commissioners next year as it normally would have.
In addition, the plan redraws boundaries of the new Precinct 4 so that it becomes more Democratic. That jeopardizes Cagle’s chances of re-election and could shift the balance of power in Commissioners Court. Four Democrats could create a super-majority, enabling them to raise taxes at will.
TRO Denied, Then Lawsuit Dismissed on Plea to Jurisdiction
The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to block preparations for redistricting until the lawsuit could be resolved.
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.
County law specifies that precinct commissioners must livein 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.
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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Ellis-3-Final_Page_1-copy.jpg?fit=1200%2C927&ssl=19271200adminadmin2021-10-28 19:21:322021-10-29 07:47:28Democrats Approve Modified Ellis Redistricting Plan Along Party Lines
The Ellis Plan being put forward by Democrats would massively shift precinct boundaries to create another Democratic precinct. Democrats now hold a 3-2 majority on Commissioners Court. That means Ellis’ plan will likely be adopted and create a 4-1 majority.
Inner city neighborhoods would likely benefit at the expense of outlying unincorporated areas that make up the county’s primary service area. Municipalities, such as the City of Houston are supposed to take care of their own infrastructure and services.
Changes Recommended by Ellis and Democrats
Ellis’ Plan would increase the Democratic majority on Commissioners Court. Democratic Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia barely won a hotly contested election last time by only 4,000 votes and is up for re-election next year. Republicans considered his seat the most vulnerable to recapture.
But Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis who won election by a wide margin last time appears to be “giving” part of his surplus to Garcia to shore up Garcia’s re-election chances.
The Ellis Plan also shrinks Republican Tom Ramsey’s Precinct 3 to leave him largely with Democratic voters. The rest of Ramsey’s precinct would go to Republican Jack Cagle’s Precinct 4, which would approximately double in size – and go deeper red – but leave Republicans with one less seat on Commissioners Court.
Thus, even if Judge Lina Hidalgo loses her next election, Democrats would still likely command a majority of Commissioners Court.
Current and Proposed Maps
Here is the current map.
Below is Ellis’ proposed map.
That’s because earlier this year, Commissioners Court voted unanimously to distribute Road and Bridge funds equally to each precinct. But if Precinct 4 virtually doubles in geographic size – as it apparently will – that leaves Commissioner Cagle with half the dollars per square mile…in the fastest developing parts of the county.
Cutting Humble in Half
The Ellis Plan would also cut the City of Humble in half. That would make it harder for Humble to coordinate its drainage efforts with the county because Humble would have to work with two county commissioners, not just one. It would also give Cagle responsibility for the flood-prone areas near the San Jacinto River while Ellis would take areas on higher ground that need fewer drainage dollars.
Reaction by Garcia Challenger
John Manlove, former mayor of Pasadena, who has already announced a run against Garcia in Precinct 2, believes that the proposed redistricting loses sight of the county’s core mission – to provide services and infrastructure in unincorporated areas.
Said Manlove, “Under the proposed redistricting plan, Commissioner Cagle’s equal share of the Road and Bridge Fund would have to cover twice as much territory. Cagle’s constituents would, in essence, be underfunded, while those in other precincts would be overfunded relative to Precinct 4.”
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/20211018-Screen-Shot-2021-10-18-at-5.48.05-PM.jpg?fit=1200%2C740&ssl=17401200adminadmin2021-10-19 08:56:162021-10-19 11:15:04Harris County Commissioners Will Hold Special Meeting on Redistricting Thursday