BY STEVE CAMPBELL | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Sep. 20, 2011
FORT WORTH — Democrats and community activists pushed Tuesday night for the creation of a majority-minority justice of the peace/constable precinct at a public hearing on Tarrant County redistricting.
County commissioners were presented with a proposed “minority opportunity” map that carves out a compact Precinct 7 in east Arlington and Grand Prairie that would be made up of 57 percent minorities.
Precinct 7 currently anchors the southeast quadrant of the county. The proposed map would turn it into a long, slender slice of eastern Arlington and south Grand Prairie.
Democrats as well as NAACP and LULAC representatives said that under the current precinct map, only two of eight precincts give minority voters a chance to elect a justice of the peace and constable.
Opponents said the new map would create unwieldy administrative districts by stretching the current Precinct 2, now centered in central Arlington, from Grand Prairie to the southern edge of the county.
Before the public hearing, Commissioner Roy Brooks, the lone Democrat on the commissioners court, vehemently denied rumors that he was involved in drawing the new map.
Wendy Burgess, a Mansfield City Council member, said the changes would cause unnecessary administrative expenses and noted that Precinct 3 is represented by a minority constable and justice of the peace.
Former Democratic state Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington supported the new map.
“In a county where the bulk of the population growth has occurred in minority populations, it’s only fair that minority voters have increased opportunities to elect the candidates of their choice,” Turner said
Kelly Cannon, a tea party member from Arlington, said the proposal is racially motivated.
“It is a sad day when skin color motivates district lines,” she said.
After the public hearing, Commissioner Andy Nguyen, the first county commissioner of Vietnamese heritage, drew an ovation when he told the crowd that the real challenge for minority communities is the lack of engagement, not the lack of representation.
“If we increase the number of voter registrations from the minority community by about 5 percent and if we learn to work together, then we will have representation and that is really the challenge,” he said. “It’s about the quality of your idea and the quality of your leadership — it’s not about the color of your skin.”