Dallas Redistricting Battle Begins

City Council members joked about it Wednesday, but they may have a hard time staying friendly as they tackle drawing new lines for their districts.

The 2010 Census will be the basis for a realignment of district borders. The Census is expected to reflect an enormous increase in Dallas' Latino population.

Councilman Steve Salazar, who is also an attorney, will be off the council when the final redistricting decisions are made because of term limits.

"Would it be a conflict if I came and sued the city later if I wasn't happy with the way these lines are drawn?" he asked the city attorney Wednesday.

Everyone laughed, but Councilman Dwaine Caraway also acknowledged the impending serious conflict.

"This is going to be a problem," he said. "This is a tug-of-war with each and every one of these council members around this horseshoe."

Caraway's district is among several that show evidence of "black flight" from Dallas.

Political consultant and radio talk show host Willis Johnson, who served on the Dallas Complete Count Committee, said he has seen the change.

"A number of African-Americans have left the city, and where they left, the Latino population picked up," he said.

Over the years, blacks fought hard for representation at Dallas City Hall. Johnson said they will not easily surrender in this round of redistricting.

"I think it will be a bit tense at times," he said.

"Money and power is what you look at every 10 years," said Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, who served as a national representative in U.S. Census Bureau activities.

But Salazar said race should not be the only factor in drawing new district lines.

The Pleasant Grove area of Southeast Dallas is divided among four different council districts.

Salazar represents a Northwest Dallas District that was divided much the same way prior to the 2000 redistricting.

"And they finally came into one, and there has been a vast improvement in this area for services, for bond funds and for the attention that they really need," Salazar said.

The City Council heard on Wednesday a briefing on efforts by the city's Complete Count Committee to get all residents counted.

Now the council will appoint a special citizen committee to consider the results of the 2010 Census and redistricting options. A staff of six city employees will assist the committee.

New district lines are expected to be in place for 2013 City Council elections, provided there are no lawsuits.

Click here to see the current City Council district map.

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