Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New county redistricting map, M2, wins on a vote of 3 to 2

Judge Cobb turned to Commissioners Ingalsbe and Whisenant to ask if, in the spirit of unity, they would support Map M2. Their answer was, No.

Note: This is a first blush report on today's commissioners court action to adopt a new county commissioner precinct map. Like it or not, the map with its newly drawn boundary lines will be in effect until the next U. S. Census in 2020. According to testimony at the public hearing, the new redistricting map/plan will be forwarded to the U. S. Department of Justice for approval to ensure that it meets the guidelines of the federal Voting Rights Act. The review will take about 60 days. Justice officials are likely to key in on whether the new map preserves the minority Hispanic district (Precinct 1) around San Marcos, currently represented by Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe.

Send your comments and questions to, to County Judge Bert Cobb at, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Bob Ochoa

Map M2 is finally adopted
commissioners court.
(See the current map below)
Click on maps to enlarge

County Courthouse, San Marcos Tx – For a county redistricting process that started in relative obscurity five months ago in March with the appointment of a 4-member redistricting committee, the end, today, came after a spirited, and at times contentious, public hearing.

At one point in the hour and a half hearing that ended around 3:15 p.m., a red-faced County Judge Bert Cobb slammed down his gavel, cutting off a speaker and threatened to have him removed from the courtroom. Cobb later described the speaker as a provocateur.

The public hearing drew a not quite standing room only crowd. Four large maps, each with slightly differently drawn county commissioner precincts, stood at the back of the commissioners' courtroom.

A lot of detailed questions, answers and information was exchanged during the public comments portion of the public hearing. About a dozen citizens spoke, most voicing their support for Map O. They said it did the best job of preserving communities of interest and avoided splitting the city of Kyle area into three commissioner precincts.

As it turned out, a large subdivision on Kyle's west side, Hometown Kyle, was removed from inside Kyle and Buda-based Precinct 2 represented by Commissioner Mark Jones, and placed inside Dripping Springs-based Precinct 4, under Map M2. It was one of the biggest pieces of collateral damage in the redrawing of commissioner precincts.

With the public comments over, Judge Cobb queried the county's redistricting consultant, attorney Rolando Rios of San Antonio: "I have reviewed all this and I am in a quandary. I need guidance (to) have a map that goes up there to DOJ (US Dept of Justice) and is not rejected."

Rios assured Cobb that either of the maps, O and M2, stood a good chance of passing federal review. "I'm a lawyer. We can't guarantee anything," Rios said. "I think whatever plan you select has a good chance."

Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, San Marcos, who had favored Map P, announced "in the spirit of cooperation" that she was throwing her support behind Map O. "I'm not getting everything I want out of the map but I want to support it. The (population) deviation is less than the M maps," Ingalsbe said. "It certainly follows the senatorial and congressional lines more than the other maps."

Commissioner Jones, who along with Cobb has the most to lose politically with constituents unhappy with the new precinct lines, explained the tough quandary he was in. "The problem is I represent 52,000 people in Precinct 2 with six cities, and they all want to be in Precinct 2. Ten subdivisions feel just as strongly . . . We (Precinct 2) have to lose 13,000 (people to the other three precincts). It's not an easy decision, one I struggle with . . . pray about. Hometown Kyle are my neighbors. If there were any way to do it with the best interests of all in Precinct 2 I would do it . . . I have to pick between Hometown Kyle, Uhland, Hays City and those ten subdivisions . . . "

Judge Cobb, standing, Ingalsbe on left,
and Jones huddle after the vote

After some comments from Commissioners Will Conley (Pct. 3) and Ray Whisenant (Pct. 4), Conley moved to adopt Map M2. Jones seconded Conley's motion. Commissioner Whisenant offered into the record data on voting age populations, backing up his Map O.

Judge Cobb turned to Commissioners Ingalsbe and Whisenant to ask if, in the spirit of unity, they would support Map M2. Their answer was, No. Commissioner Ingalsbe asked Judge Cobb if he would support Map O. Cobb said his job was to support the interests of the entire county.

"I understand where each of you is coming from," Cobb told commissioners. "Unfortunately this is putting me in the Solomon position of dividing the baby." He asked those who did not support his decision to be kind to him.

The roll was called and the votes were announced: Ingalsbe - No; Jones - Yes; Conley- Yes; Whisenant - No; and Cobb - Yes. The county's redistricting Map M2 was finally adopted. You could hear sighs of relief coming from the dais.

Map of current commissioner precincts


Anonymous said...

The western part of the county accounts for only a fourth of the county's population yet they have two of the four commissioners. Do they honestly think all of the growth during the next ten years will be out in Wimberly and Drippin' area?

Anonymous said...

Other then Judge Cobb, do any of the others have any formal education pasted high school? Not that education is the most important thing in the world, but most college programs include an ethics component. I'm trying to figure out how they dropped the ball on this one and why they didn't listen to the voters.

Having said that, the voters will have the last word on this as people come up for re-election.

2nd Anonymous said...

To First Anonymous:

1. Redistricting maps are drawn on
the basis of the most recent census numbers -- NOT on the basis of where population may or may not occur in the FUTURE.

2. Did you attend any of the public hearings on redistricting and voice your opinion? Did you present an alternative map?

3. "The western part of the county"
is a huge territory compared to the small area of precincts 1 and 2, but each precinct represents approximately 40,000 people. No precinct or part of the county has any more representation on the Commissioners Court than any other precinct.

What??? said...

Our Precinct 3 "champion," Will Conley, voted for Plan M2 instead of Plan O despite the facts that:

1) 12 of the 14 citizen speakers at the final public hearing supported Plan O;

2) Plan O is fairer to Precinct 3 than is Plan M2 because Plan O contains only 817 people fewer than the Ideal Number of 39,277 people, while Plan M2 has the precinct at 1815 people under the Ideal Number;

3) Plan O keeps Hilliard Road residents in the same precinct, while the Plan M2 boundary runs right down the middle of the street; and,

4) Plan M2 has the highest Total Deviation (9.44%) of the final four maps, while Plan O is at a reasonable 5.55% Total Deviation.

Anonymous said...

Who was the "provocateur"?

Plead the 5th said...

What is that narrow gap connecting the two bulges in precinct 4, the Isthmus of Gerrymandering?

Anonymous said...

To 2nd Anonymous:

1)The two commissioners who were on the committee were looking forward to the next election cycle. To think otherwise is naive. If the map was really based on the last census and the Communities of Interest, the final map would certainly look more like the map on this blog from the August 4th article.

2)Yes, I did and Yes, I did.

3)See the map I mentioned above and my point should be a little more clear to you.

Anonymous said...

Isthmus of Gerrymandering!

That's great. Thanks for making me laugh again.

Lila Knight

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I like the new redistricting map just fine. To tell the truth any of the maps would have been fine with me. All this complaining and carping about one map over the other is really about the Commissioners and the fact they were not the ones you voted for.

The post about whether the Commissioners have a college education or not, is ludicrous. Most f the damage to our freedoms by politicians in this country is by lawyers; I think they are university educated.

What makes anyone think citizen input is needed on something as straight forward as dividing the County up according to the population. The only complication is the Fed's requirement for a racist divide about Hispanics which should be unconstitutional. We still won't let a person's race be insignificant in this country mostly due to our federal government and the politician's pandering.

Anonymous said...

If Jones was concerned about having to give up 13,000 of his current constituents, why did he reach out and grab the Rim Rock Subdivision currently in precinct 4? It is off of 1826 and has little in common with the Buda Kyle area.

Second, even though the maps have to be based on current census data, if there was to be a deviation it should have been exactly the opposite of what all four proposals showed. Precincts 1 and 2 should have been slightly under target and 3 and 4 over target. That way in 10 years these higher projected growth areas would not under represent quite so may people.