For the past couple of years, there has been a loud political battle over Voter ID laws, both in Texas and across America. Republicans claim that a requirement for voters to provide a photo ID is a reasonable precaution against voter fraud. Democrats counter that there is scant evidence of a voter-fraud problem and that the actual intent of Voter ID laws is to disenfranchise Democrats (and minorities), who are more likely to not have a photo ID. Regardless of who is right, there is no question that any disenfranchisement related to Voter ID laws is miniscule compared to disenfranchisement of San Antonio’s diverse North and Northwest sides by San Antonio’s version of Tammany Hall, the Hispanic-dominated political machine of the East, South, and West sides headed by Julian Castro.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, San Antonio’s diverse North and Northwest sides (Districts 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, whose populations are between 21% and 56% non-Hispanic Anglo) had about 741,000 residents while the Hispanic-dominated East, South, and West sides (Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, whose populations are between 3.98% and 19.81% non-Hispanic Anglo) had about 585,000 residents. Yet each area had five councilpersons. What a travesty of the one-person, one-vote principle! The extra 156,000 voters in the North and Northwest sides were essentially denied representation. My District 8 in 2010 had 50% more residents (159,578) than District 5 (106,608) had, yet each had one councilperson.
Fortunately, this sort of travesty is supposed to end with a redistricting following each census. San Antonio’s 2010 population of 1,326,721 means that each council district should have 132,672 residents. (Although congressional redistricting requires that each district have almost exactly the same number of residents, cities are allowed by law to have a deviation of +5% or –5%.) That sort of flexibility might make sense in the hands of a wise City Council, which could use the flexibility to create compact districts with communities of shared interest and easily identifiable geographic boundaries. But this flexibility makes no sense when the Castro Council uses it to continue its outrageous disenfranchisement of the North and Northwest sides by massively diluting our votes.
With the average council district supposed to have 132,672 residents, the heavy-handed Castro Council decided to re-populate Districts 1-5 with between 126,616 residents and 129,002, while Districts 6-10 will have between 134,410 and 139,227. Thus, Districts 1-5 will have about 636,000 residents while District 6-10s will have about 691,000. The difference between the most and least populated districts after redistricting is 9.8%, the most possible without breaking the law.
Perhaps those of us who live in northern San Antonio should be happy that, instead of the 156,000 North and Northwest side residents disenfranchised in 2011, we will only have 55,000 disenfranchised in 2013. Of course, that is based on the 2010 Census. Everyone knows that all of San Antonio’s population growth continues in the North and Northwest sides and that the 2020 census will reveal a repeated travesty of the one-person, one-vote principle.
A wise City Council would have set the populations for Districts 6-10 as slightly lower than Districts 1-5, knowing that population growth would reverse that status by 2020. (Population growth in San Antonio has been to the North and Northwest for several decades.) But apparently, we don’t have a wise City Council. Instead we have a City Council where the Castro machine runs roughshod over the non-Hispanics on the North and Northwest sides.
When I called my councilperson Reed Williams to complain about this inequitable treatment of his district, he responded that there was not much he could do because “they have the votes.” Well, that’s not what civil-rights advocates said in the early 60s when their voting rights were trampled on. Instead of turning the other cheek, Williams should be raising hell on behalf of his constituents.
Further evidence of this bigotry by the Castro Council was recently revealed when it adopted what the Express-News called “a race-conscious approach to awarding contracts put out for bid.” Apparently, the city’s race-neutral program had resulted in too few contracts going to minorities and women. Because there was no evidence of discrimination, the Council’s action revealed that it was more interested in equal results than in equal opportunity. Under its new program, every bidder except white males will receive preferences.
Further evidence of Castro’s prejudice against the North and Northwest sides – in a column last month, Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff wrote that Castro admitted to him that an employer-incentive package was especially generous because the employer was locating on the South Side – “Are we doing a little more because it’s a South Side investment? Sure,” Castro said. Why should the creation of jobs on the South Side be more valuable to San Antonio’s mayor than the creation of jobs on the North Side?
I just finished watching the John Adams miniseries, so I’m especially sensitive to the issue of taxation without representation, and the supercilious attitude of Castro’s Council evokes a similar feeling. Like the colonies, we are being treated by the crown as its personal ATM machine. So, the next time you hear about the Republican Party trying to disenfranchise a few voters who don’t have photo IDs, tell them that the Republicans are small-time amateurs compared to the big-time professionals on Castro’s City Council.
The following is District populations before and after redistricting:
District Before After
1 112,466 126,616
2 123,727 129,002
3 118,848 127,207
4 123,256 126,702
5 106,608 126,228
6 152,661 134,410
7 137,292 139,081
8 159,578 139,169
9 159,189 139,227
10 133,096 139,079