Ashanti Blaize, NBC 5
Citizens packed Dallas City Hall on Saturday making their opinions known as the city considers three redistricting plans.
The new lines for Dallas City Council seats are still being drawn, but the battle lines are already clear. Hundreds of people packed Dallas City Hall to voice their concerns over the city’s new political map.
The battle is centered around three proposed redistricting maps that in effect, determine the city of Dallas’ political future for the next ten years.
"This is when government works, well hopefully it will," said Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings. "When we listen to each other and we make sure we put our citizens first and our political agendas second."
The public forum at Dallas City Hall on Saturday afternoon was a chance to do just that—an opportunity for Dallas residents to sound off about how the city’s districts should be re-drawn.
"Proposed plan 16 is the most gerrymandered of the three plans and therefore would invite the most litigation," said Dallas resident, Lee Baldwin who spoke before the Redistricting Commission.
Other Dallas residents, like Wilma Jensen were concerned about their neighborhoods.
"Buckner Terrace is a diamond in the rough and always had been," said Jensen. "But nobody takes us seriously because we have been lumped in with South Dallas and Pleasant Grove. We are neither."
This is a process Dallas city charter requires every ten years just after census numbers are released. The goal is to make sure each district has an equal population of about 85,000 people.
After an initial sixteen proposed redistricting maps, only Plans 3, 5 and 16 remained standing. Two of them were submitted by commissioners and one from a retired DISD teacher named Bill Betzen.
"I did a first draft in probably 20 or 30 hours," said Betzen.
For him, map three is about improving district lines from how they were drawn in previous years.
"Back then, they put a lot of those boundary lines right down neighborhood streets, which I think is abominable," he said. "And they were long, thin districts, which whenever you have an excess of boundary lines, you divide more neighborhoods."
City Councilman, Dwaine Caraway favors Plan16 over Betzen’s and especially over Plan 5, drawn up in part by fellow city council member Vonciel Jones Hill.
"They took even where I live in Cedar Cross Golf Course and all of these areas on Lancaster and drew it out of District 4," said Caraway.
Caraway’s hope is to preserve his district, District 4 and its legacy.
"South Oak Cliff is the only portion that they had the nerve to draw in and enjoin it with South Dallas and totally destroy the history of Oak Cliff," he said.
While there were no clear cut winners among the three plans, many at the public forum said anything is better than the lines that separate them now.
"What better way to get communities together than to get rid of boundary lines," said Betzen.
No vote on Saturday as to which map will go to the U.S. Justice Department for review. That vote will happen on Tuesday night. If everything goes as planned, the new map will be used for the 2013 elections.