All of Lake Highlands is divided into three parts.
Those of you who took Latin recognize the reference, but this statement for Lake Highlands is just as true in 2010 as it was for Gaul (present-day France) in Julius Caesar’s day. No, I’m not talking about a slice of Tony’s pizza in one part of Lake Highlands versus Mi Cocina’s fajitas and a JG’s cheeseburger in the other two parts (now that line-up would make a pretty impressive progressive dinner — although followed by an extended visit to a stairmaster at LA Fitness).
I’m talking about the butchering that Lake Highlands suffered back in 2001, at the time of the last legislative redistricting. As I’m sure you recall from government class, our Constitution requires a national census every 10 years, so we can count heads across the country and find out how many more people have “gone to Texas”. Once armed with the census results, the 50 state legislatures then engage in the time-honored slug-fest of redistricting. If watching the process of laws being passed is like watching sausage being made, then watching the redistricting process is frequently like the slaughtering that precedes the sausage-making. (OK, so now I’ve completely ruined the pleasant foodie image created in the first paragraph.)
The last round of redistricting for our state legislative districts (our state senators and state representatives in Austin) occurred during the 2001 legislative session. At the time, most of Lake Highlands was actually in the same state representative district as the Park Cities. During that session, our state representative was Republican Kenn George, who lived in Highland Park.
When all was said and done, and the smoke had cleared, the new map showed a state-representative district that kept the Park Cities fully intact, and is now represented by Republican Dan Branch. Lake Highlands, however, got carved up into three separate state-representative districts.
Those three Lake Highlands districts are generally defined as: east of Audelia/south of Northwest Highway, currently represented by Democrat Allen Vaught; west of Audelia/south of Royal, currently represented by Republican Will Hartnett; and north of Royal, currently represented by Democrat Carol Kent.
The primary guiding doctrine in redistricting is, theoretically, maintaining “communities of interest”. Of course, in Lake Highlands’ case in 2001, that principle did about as much guiding as a Toyota gas pedal.
And so, we have just completed the primary election to determine who will be facing whom in November. Each one of Lake Highlands’ incumbent state representatives will be on the ballot, and they each will have an opponent. The state legislature will be tackling the job of redistricting in the next session, which starts January 2011. There will be many agendas and many strategies, but there won’t be any agenda or strategy more important to Lake Highlands than drawing new district lines that puts all of Lake Highlands — our community of interest — in one state-representative district.
Carol Kent will be challenged by Republican Stefani Carter; Will Hartnett will be facing Democrat John Wellik; and Allen Vaught will be up against Republican Kenneth Sheets. It is interesting to note that only one of these six candidates actually lives in Lake Highlands — Carol Kent. When it comes time to stand up for, and protect, the integrity of our community, will any of them pledge to do so during the campaign — and then actually do it during the session?
Lake Highlands, as a community, has had a strong voice through its District 10 representation on the Dallas City Council over the years — Dean Vanderbilt, Donna Halstead, Alan Walne, Bill Blaydes and Jerry Allen. Lake Highlands, as a community, deserves to have one similarly strong voice in the Texas Legislature.
Redistricting, as a campaign issue, typically never makes the discussion-point cut and is usually considered “inside baseball”. But it can make a huge difference to a community like ours — and continue making a difference for the next 10 years. Some folks have thought it so important that they have run away from Austin in the dark of night to protect their turf; just ask the state representatives who ran off to Ardmore and the state senators who ran off to Albuquerque back in 2003.
Lake Highlands doesn’t need to be governed like Czechoslovakia. Let’s call on our state representatives to pledge to reunite our community. Wildcats of the world — unite!