The committee tasked with redrawing San Antonio’s City Council districts approved a map of the new districts Tuesday, moving part of Brackenridge Park that’s currently in District 2 into District 1.
Residents of District 2 who opposed the move packed the meeting and vowed to keep fighting the change when the committee meets again June 7.
“It’s very possible that somebody could walk in on [June 7] and make a motion for [further changes], but for all intents and purposes, the final proposed plan has been approved,” said Assistant City Attorney Iliana Castillo Daily.
The City Council is expected to vote on the redistricting at its June 16 meeting — a formality after it delegated the map-drawing process to a committee of two residents from each district plus three representatives appointed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
That committee has now been meeting for roughly six months to craft a plan that will redistribute citizens among the council districts, as the city is legally required to do after the 2020 census showed roughly 100,000 more San Antonio residents than at time the census was taken in 2010, with some districts growing more than others. The aim is for city council districts to have substantially equal populations with no more than 10% overall difference between the smallest and largest districts.
District 2 is home to a large share of the city’s Black residents, some of whom arrived at Tuesday’s meeting saying they had only just learned about the change to Brackenridge Park hours earlier.
“Some of y’all don’t understand, during segregation there were places we couldn’t go, but we could go to Brackenridge Park,” said Linda Tippins of San Antonio Fighting Back, a group dedicated to fighting substance abuse. “This is our park. I want to tell my great, great-grandchildren, we’re going to Brackenridge Park in District 2.”
As residents made impassioned arguments for revisiting map boundaries, tension grew among the committee members, who had already voted 16-1 in favor of the current proposal at a May 10 meeting.
“We find ourselves making a decision that has tremendous consequences for the District 2 community. … I think it’s a mistake for us to make that change,” said Amy Kastely, who represents District 5 on the committee and supported allowing the last-minute revision to keep part of the 349-acre park in District 2.
Some residents who live near the park say they want it to be represented by one council member so that it will be easier to address concerns about issues like traffic and parking. District 2 residents who showed up protesting the change say keeping the park in their district is a matter of principle; they don’t want to lose a cultural asset.
“Our district is one of the most underserved communities in the entire city of San Antonio,” said District 2 resident Pharaoh Clark. “We don’t have one movie theater. We don’t have one hospital. We don’t have one bowling alley. The last thing that we have is a nice park.”
City officials paused at one point to remind attendees that the changes in council representation wouldn’t limit access to city facilities, including Brackenridge Park.
“This process does not impact access to city services. It will not impact your trash pickup. It will not impact your ability to go to a library, and I imagine the logical conclusion is, yes, a park,” said Castillo Daily.
Two proposals that would have moved some of Brackenridge Park back into District 2 failed Tuesday. One would have kept both precincts 3178 and 3207 in that district, while another would have restored only precinct 3207.
City officials calculated the effect of leaving the two precincts in District 2, and determined the number of residents in those precincts was small enough that the change could be made without upsetting the new population balance among districts.
But committee members opposed to the idea argued that the group had already reached a final map in its earlier meeting and approved it with the support of both members who represent District 2, Dwayne Robinson and Devorah Frost. On Tuesday, Frost and Mohammad Rasool, who attended the meeting in Frost’s place, were among those pushing to restore Brackenridge to District 2.
After more than two hours of discussion, some committee members who opposed the change began to leave the meeting, leaving Castillo Daily to determine whether there was still a quorum. District 1 representative Jordan Raffoul Ghawi, who left the room, declined to comment after the meeting.
Even the council member who represents District 2, Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, has changed his stance about the changes to Brackenridge Park. He initially said he thought the park would be better served if it was all in one district, then changed his mind in an April 20 council meeting.
On Tuesday, McKee-Rodriguez said he agreed with the constituents who spoke out against moving all of the park into District 1 and planned to help their organizing efforts ahead of the next meeting.
“I’m pretty angry,” McKee-Rodriguez said in an interview after the meeting. “Some members of certain parts of the community are ignored and favored over others. An overwhelming number of people, people of color, who are disenfranchised, who work during this time, came out in large numbers, and it was ignored.”
Castillo Daily said the map the committee approved will be printed and put on display at city libraries for the public to see. The June 7 committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m.
Correction: This story has been updated to correctly state that Mohammad Rasool attended the meeting in Devorah Frost’s place, and Dwayne Robinson was in attendance.