Monday, July 11, 2011

Redistricting committee member criticizes lack of transparency

"Transparency . . . was sorely missing in this process and I completely disagree with the policy of closing the meetings to the public."

Note: Here's an interesting, and troubling, update from Sandra Tenorio, a member of the county's 4-member redistricting committee. Her emailed report is circulating amongst Hays County Democrats. Tenorio is the local Democratic Party's representative on the committee. She is the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Buda. This is the first full-blown "inside" report to see the light of day, from a process that up to now has been closed to the public. We certainly welcome any input the Republican Party's Chair and rep on the committee, Bud Wymore, may have.

To be fair, Ms. Tenorio told the RoundUp her emailed update was meant for members of the executive committee of the local party, not for the media. She did not give the RoundUp permission to reprint it. We suspect though that information in her update will be surfacing in the press in one form or another. Since there are no big national security risks at stake here, we decided to run with it in the public interest.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Ms. Tenorio at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story



I am sending this email to provide an update of the Redistricting process to date. As most of you know, I was appointed by the Commissioners’ Court as a Democrat to balance representation on the Committee.

Before providing an update, let me provide basic information about the process that has existed to date (I don’t defend the process but want to make sure everyone understands the tone in which this “Committee” operates):

· The “Committee” is a loosely formed group of four people—Commissioner Conley, Commissioner Ingalsbe, Bud Wymore (R-County Chair), and myself—ADA Kennedy, Mr. Rios (redistricting attorney), Joyce Cowan and Steve Floyd (County GIS) also attend most meetings as a resource,

· The Committee has no structure, no agenda, no votes, and no minutes,

· The discussions of the Committee were not had in such a way that a briefing of the process was held, a proposed schedule was adopted, and/or recommendations were made from each member,

· The Committee meetings were not open to the Public and several community members were asked to leave by Commissioner Conley—since he determined that meetings were not subject to open meetings, and

· It can be said that the Committee never reached a consensus on the maps and it was more a matter of Commissioner Conley adjusting possible lines, reviewing population numbers and making more adjustments—with some adjustments resulting from objections and complaints.

During the three meetings that were held after I was appointed (May 4th, June 30th, and July 7th) I tried to emphasize the purpose of Redistricting—that is to protect Voting Rights, protect Communities of Interest, and balance the population among the four Commissioner Precincts. The population of the precincts cannot deviate more than 10% to meet Justice Department standards and the current percentage of minority population in each of the four Precincts cannot be reduced as a result of redistricting.

At the May 4th meeting, Commissioner Conley presented a map to the Committee and requested that his map be the starting point of discussion. Commissioner Ingalsbe requested that we use the existing Commissioner Precincts as a starting point. Conley’s map recommended that Precinct 4 reach into the South end of Kyle and across IH 35 into some of Kyle’s subdivisions. He also proposed that Precinct 1 absorb the Kyle subdivisions east of IH 35. I did not agree with Precinct 4 reaching into southern and eastern Kyle, across IH 35 and Commissioner Ingalsbe didn’t agree with absorbing so much of eastern Kyle. In addition, the proposed plan significantly reduced the percentage of minorities in Precinct 2 and would not have been acceptable.

At the June 30th meeting, Commissioner Ingalsbe presented a map that she and Commissioner Whisenant had developed that removed much of Kyle from Precinct 4 and Precinct 1. The map (known as Map K) also made some adjustments between Precinct 3 and Precinct 4. Commissioner Conley had not reviewed the map and did not support the proposal—offering his own map created by a friend at the Attorney General’s office.

At the July 7th meeting, Commissioner Conley worked on several maps adjusting lines between Precincts. During the exercise, I tried to stress the need to consider Communities of Interest and maintain the same percentage of minority representation in each precinct. Also during this meeting, Assistant District Attorney Mark Kennedy advised Commissioner Conley and the Committee that an “Advisory” Committee was not subject to “Open Meetings” however, if the Committee was to recommend policy with some authority, it would be subject to “Open Meetings”. It was determined by Kennedy that this Committee was advisory and he also recommended the process for public input be announced as soon as possible. In addition, he recommended that several maps be submitted to the Court for consideration.

During the meeting, Kennedy advised the Court staff to place an item on the July 12th Agenda to discuss the process and set a public hearing. To suggest a schedule or number of hearings, you should attend the July 12th meeting or contact your commissioner with your recommendations. I believe they will probably schedule two public hearings—however, I am not sure whether they will be scheduled during the day or in the evening.

By the end of the July 7th meeting, there were three additional maps that were to be developed. The maps were developed in conversation and I can’t say that each map was reviewed and discussed in detail as much as each map included adjustments for population and responses to objections. It will be clear in reviewing the maps that because of the necessary population adjustments—most of the major changes occur between Precincts 2 and 4, with some shifting in Precincts 3 and 4. Commissioner Conley and Commissioner Ingalsbe seemed to agree on the lines between 1 and 3. The major question will be which communities in Precinct 2 will be moved into Precinct 4 and what those two Commissioners are willing to agree to that meets the Voting Rights Act and Justice Department standards.

MAP K (J on the county's website)—is the map that was presented by Commissioner Ingalsbe on June 30th on behalf of herself and Commissioner Whisenant.

MAP L—is a map created by Commissioner Conley and includes almost ½ of Old Town Kyle in Precinct 4.

MAP L2—is another map that returns most of Kyle to precinct 2 except for Wallace Middle School, City Park and Home Town Kyle subdivision.

MAP L3—returns Hometown Kyle, school and park back to Pct. 2 to moves unincorporated portions of West Buda along FM 1626.

MAP L4—was presented by Commissioner Whisenant after the meeting, it returns Hometown Kyle back to Pct. 4 and the West of Buda back to Pct 2—and moves some of the Pct. 3 population in San Marcos to Pct. 4.

The narrative of the maps is confusing and I apologize for the rambling report however, they maps are available through the County GIS at the following web site: (

I wish I had a more structured report or minutes to present however, I can promise that I did my best to raise the issues that important to us all—communities of interest, minority representation and especially, a sense of fairness. Transparency—on the other hand—was sorely missing in this process and I completely disagree with the policy of closing the meetings to the public.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer. As you review these maps and consider recommendations switching neighborhoods and/or communities, keep in mind how that switch may affect the percentage of minority population in each precinct and how it compares to today’s percentages. Be prepared to trade one area for another in any testimony and be conscious of the impact trade may have on minority percentages.

I am attaching a chart that includes the deviation among the five maps, the population and minority representation. I hope this has been useful and encourage you to look at the maps in detail and be prepared to call your Commissioner with your comments.

Sandra Tenorio


Anonymous said...

Why in the world would you bother to have a committee with no votes, no reports, no minutes....

What a farce.

Kudos to Ms. Tenorio for her openness and honesty. Looking forward to Mr. Wymore's version.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Tenorio presents a clear and revealing picture of goings-on at the meetings of the county redistricting committee. What immediately jumps out is how Kommissar Conley tried to bully the other members of the committee.

Conley also decreed that the meetings were to be closed to the public -- no witnesses allowed to his machinations. Travis County is holding a public meeting on July 12 concerning its county redistricting. Upright legislators have nothing to hide.

It will be interesting to note how each commissioner votes on whether to have public meetings on redistricting. That will probably happen tomorrow (July 12) at the Commissioners Court's 9 a.m. session. Conley probably will vote "Aye," with public eyes on him. The five maps to be discussed are probably tailor-made to his satisfaction anyhow.

Anonymous said...

This is what you get when you invite the "other side" to a planning meeting. Her comments are really irrelevant and serve no purpose except give the Demo-critics a forum to belch their hate.

Anonymous said...

"Both" sides were invited. Let's hear from Bud Wymore, the chair of the Republican Party who was a member of the committee. Or is he just too lazy to bother writing up his notes?

Or maybe he just didn't bother taking any ????

Sam Brannon said...

"Both sides" doesn't cover the more than half of the population that don't consider themselves particularly loyal to the either party.

The existing lines and those being drawn now have more to do with party electioneering than they do good government.

Today in court I suggested that the court add 1-3 "normal" (forgive) citizens who are not party insiders to the committee, and who are concerned about access to our elected officials. I know, fat chance, but somebody had to say it.

Today the court agreed to have 3 Public Hearings on the redistricting... (I only noted two dates)

- Monday, July 25th, 6pm, County Courthouse in San Marcos.

- Tuesday, Aug 9th, 1:30pm, County Courthouse

Commissioners Ingalsbe and/or Conley will most likely be sending out a notice, including the 3rd date.

Anonymous said...

There is a new redistricting map posted on the website. Map M-1 proposed by Commissioner Mark Jones.

Commissioner Jones (who lives in Kyle) apparently doesn't think too highly of Kyle. This maps gives most of the City of Kyle away to Precincts 1 and 4.

Jon Thompson said...

Redistricting is like making sausage, quite a mess. Having seen it ten years ago when I worked at the County, there were so many versions, the poor GIS guy (Steve F) ended up at version FF (? - correct me if wrong Steve, but it was somewhere in that range). Bottom line, it took a lot of politicking to get to that point.

Take a close look at the precinct maps, there are three or four key components to making a "perfect" redistricting map, but one of the more important is the idea of compactness, which if anyone looks at a map of the past number of decades, none of the precincts could begin to be described as compact. Precinct Four stretches from Dripping Springs to San Marcos across hill and dale meandering into the northwest side of San Marcos.

What I ask you does the people of San Marcos and the people of Dripping Springs have in common when it comes to representation? We are thirty miles apart, and share different perspectives on a great many things, though a great many perspectives in common too, I suspect. Bottom line, the precincts at the end of the process almost always end up looking like a squished spider that has been run over by a motor grader.

Other elements in a good plan are contiguity and common interests. The contiguity is very simple, no divided precincts - one polygon in other words in GIS-speak. That element is usually easy to meet.

The common interests is the one that closely relates to the idea of compactness. As I stated earlier, it seems to me (independently speaking) that the principle of "compactness" has been left beside the curb for many decades of drawing precincts (and that includes Democrat and Republican Commissioner Courts). The common interests of the peoples of Dripping Springs and San Marcos (again in my opinion) are divergent enough to easily determine that they do not hold necessarily "common interests". Dripping Springs and Henly (yes), Dripping Springs and Driftwood (yes), Dripping Springs and the western side of Buda? (maybe more so than San Marcos...)

But of course the issues of racial / minority voting rights protection also has to be weighed into the mix, and the idea of incumbent protection is always in the background (see this website for some more insight into that) of the decision making process.

Whether or not Comm. Conley is as guilty as some think of doing evil, or its a legitimate process, that's for others to determine. If the Court doesn't like the maps provided they can always go back to the drawing board and request more maps. However, I would weigh in to say that more sunlight on the process is never necessarily a bad idea. Town Hall meetings across the County in the various cities would be highly advisable so that those of us in the far flung reaches of the Hays County universe can see what the maps are looking like, and who will be our new best friend in elections for the next ten years.

Well, that's my ten cents worth of insight for what it's worth. Batter up!

Democratizer said...

I notice Will Conley's name mentioned again opposing open meetings. What a party pooper. Doesn't this guy understand he works for the citizens and taxpayers who pay his $70,000 a year salary plus generous benefits. Why is he always trying to keep the public out of what is supposed to be the PUBLIC business of our local government?? Would somebody please explain this man's strange aversion to open government participation?

Anonymous said...

If we are talking about a fair system as far as dividing population. San Marcos, Kyle and Buda should get 3 and Dripping Springs/Wimberley gets 1. Why an area that has 25% of the population gets 50% of the commission is beyond me. Let's look at this with an honest eye. You can see this is the only "real" fair plan.

Anonymous said...

There is no way that Wimberley and Dripping Springs is going to give up their county subsidies. Somebody has to pay. The working class that lives along the interstate and in San Marcos needs to keep paying for those high dollar projects in the western part of the county.

(Still) Like Talking to a Rock said...

To Anonymous, July 14, 7:46 PM:

You opine, "Why an area that has 25% of the population gets 50% of the commission is beyond me."

I can well imagine that it is beyond you. The Dripping Springs/Wimberley area you refer to has 50% (not 25% as you say) of the population of Hays County. It
therefore gets 50% (=2) of the commissioners.

Let me see whether I can explain this issue to you in short, simple

1. There are four (4) commissioners on Hays County Commissioners Court, each one representing one of the 4 precincts. The County Judge is the 5th member of the Court, but he is elected at large (by everyone in the county).

2. Each precinct contains the same number of people in it, whether it is large or small in size (area).

3. Since the total population of Hays County is roughly 160,000 people, each of the four (4) precincts will have roughly 40,000 people in it.

4.The 2 small (in area) precincts in eastern Hays County (San Marcos, Kyle, Buda) will have 50% of the commissioners, representing roughly 80,000 people.

5.The 2 large (in area) precincts in western Hays County (Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Woodcreek) will have 50% of the commissioners, representing roughly 80,000 people.

6. So-o, each citizen in Precinct 1, for example, will have as much representation on the Court as a citizen of Precinct 4, for example.

Got it?

Anonymous said...

Still Like Talking to A Rock - is drinking Conley Cool-Aid.

Or maybe that IS Will Conley. LOL

Anonymous said...

A Previous Anony said... "There is no way that Wimberley and Dripping Springs is [sic] going to give up their county subsidies. Somebody has to pay. The working class that lives along the interstate and in San Marcos needs to keep paying for those high dollar projects in the western part of the county."

I don't know what your point is but it doesn't make any sense. What subsidies are you referring to? Most welfare subsidies go to peons in San Marcos.

The County is in large part funded by property taxes; therefore those with the most expensive homes provide the most tax money for the Commissioners to play with. That would not be the working class as you call them. BTW you have to actually work to be called a working class individual.

Anonymous said...

To the last poster - it seems somebody hit a nerve with you. My, my. Did it ever cross your mind they might have been referring to the thousands of homeowners in the Kyle and Buda area (who work) who pay property taxes to both county AND city - whereas homeowners in Wimberley pay NO city property taxes - but rely on the county for money for parks, senior citizens centers, roads, police, etc.

You need to get out more. Take a Sunday drive. Or better yet, take responsibility for your own life.