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.
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By Bob Ochoa
Map M2 is finally adopted
by 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.