San Antonio – More than 39,000 San Antonio residents are now in a new city council district after the 10 present members of the city council unanimously adopted a new council district map Thursday.
For the first time, though, the city council outsourced the job of drawing the map to an advisory committee composed of 23 council appointees, which produced the final draft after five months of hearings and map drawing sessions. Though council members praised their work, some questioned the process and the nature of some of the appointments.
Data from the 2020 U.S. Census showed a decade of lopsided growth had created a nearly 50,000-person gap between the city’s largest and smallest districts. That amounted to 34.6% total deviation between the two when it was supposed to be less than 10%.
The new map changes all of the council districts except 2 and 3, and it narrows the deviation down to 8.8%. In general, districts on the city’s North Side had to shrink, while those downtown and on the West Side had to grow.
District 5 is still the city’s least-populated and District 8 is its most-populated, but the difference between them is now about 13,000 people rather than 50,000.
The map-drawing process had been handed off to the advisory committee in an effort to make it more transparent and independent, said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. However, some council members had pointed remarks about the makeup of the committee.
“I think it’s important that folks are not able to appoint their family members to sit on the redistricting committee. That folks do not appoint their staff members to sit on the redistricting committee. This is significant,” said District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez.
His comments, which were similarly echoed by District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo, referred to District 3 Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran, who appointed her sister, former Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, and District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez, who appointed his zoning director, Laura Garza.
“We did successfully remove that direct political influence in the map-making process. But, you know, obviously, there’s going to be assessment and recommendations for improvement, and we’ll do that,” said Nirenberg.
For residents who are drawn into a new district, there’s no difference in what services or resources you can access, but you would call a different council member with any issues.
Though the new map will determine what council race voters cast ballots in for the May 2023 election, city staff say the council members will decide at what point they make the hand-off for fielding constituent issues from the redistricted areas.