City of Houston, PROPOSITION NO. 2 CHARTER
Relating to Residency Requirements for District Council Office for the November 2011 General Election. Shall the City Charter of the City of Houston be amended to provide that for the general election to be held in November 2011, and for the purpose of redistricting, the required period of residency to file for the office of District Council Member shall be reduced from 12 months to 6 months preceding the election day?
My recommendation: FOR
This proposed amendment basically says that for the November 2011 election, those running for Houston City Council only need to live in the particular district they are running in for 6 months prior to the election rather than 12 months as it stands now. After November 2011, the residency requirements will go back to 12 months. The reasoning behind this is that redistricting will occur before November 2011, and it is very possible that council members will be redistricted out of their current seat.
So why should you vote for it? Well let’s say that a council member currently lives on the edge of their district. During the redistricting determination, a council member might not want his or her house to be zoned to a new district. Maybe his or her current district is very liberal, and the new one would be very conservative (or the other way around). If the residency requirements do not change, he or she might do some heavy gerrymandering to make sure that he or she stays in one particular district. If the current residency requirements stand, council members will not have time after redistricting is voted on to move to a new house in order to run for their current district. So voting for this proposed amendment might prevent council members from creating shady districts, if of course, they are willing to move.
Some might say that this pretty pro-incumbent, and considering the voting records of many of our current members, do we really want to help them to stay longer? Probably not, but consider this: the proposed amendment will also help new candidates too. Candidates running in 2011 will start campaigning in February when they can start raising money. Who knows when redistricting will actually be done by? By the time redistricting is all said and done, what if a candidate no longer lives in the district they have been running in? Do they have to drop out of the race or decide to run for another position? That might be a lot of wasted money. Many hard-working citizens give candidates money because they want to be represented by that particular person. If the candidate has to drop out because of no fault of their own, a lot of people have wasted a lot of money.
Finally, if an incumbent running in 2011 is running against someone who lives on the edge of their district, couldn’t the incumbent just cut their opponent out of the race altogether? Surely we wouldn’t want that to happen either.
I know there will be those who disagree with me, and I surely can see the other side of this too, but I suggest voting in favor of Proposition 2 to have the best chance of creating fair districts.