Redistricting plan could hurt LGBT voters

Map approved by Dallas council would cost community an ally, put heavily gay neighborhood in homophobic councilwoman’s district

DRAWN OUT | Raymond Crawford, president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Kiest Boulevard and Hampton Road as a “gayborhood.” Under the redistricting plan, Kiestwood would be placed in the district represented by anti-gay Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Much has been made of the fact that a redistricting plan approved by the Dallas City Council last week could disenfranchise Hispanic voters.

But the redistricting plan, should it be signed off on by the U.S. Department of Justice, could also hurt the LGBT community.

Newly elected District 3 Councilman Scott Griggs said the map approved by the council would effectively cost the LGBT community an ally at the horseshoe because he’s been drawn into District 1, currently represented by Delia Jasso.

Meanwhile, under the plan, heavily LGBT areas of Oak Cliff currently represented by Griggs and Jasso have been drawn into districts that are home to Dwaine Caraway and Vonciel Hill.

“Delia and I have been pretty involved and very supportive of the GLBT community over the years,” said Griggs, who hasn’t indicated whether he’d run against Jasso in 2013 if the plan holds up. “You have two other council members who haven’t shown as much support.

“You are losing an ally,” Griggs added. “Is Dwaine [Caraway] or her [Hill] going to be as open or responsive as Delia and I have been?”

Jasso, who formed a citizens LGBT task force after taking office in 2009, couldn’t be reached for comment this week. But Jasso reportedly supports other Hispanic leaders who plan a lawsuit against the city if the redistricting plan is approved by the justice department.

Led by attorney Domingo Garcia, they allege the plan violates the Voting Rights Act. The plan guarantees that only two to four of the council’s 14 districts would be represented by Hispanics, who account for 42 percent of the city’s population.

Jasso believes she might have difficulty retaining her seat, because the new District 1 would include heavily Anglo areas with high voter turnout, including Kessler Park, Stevens Park and Winnetka Heights.

Openly gay former Councilman John Loza, who’s Hispanic and served on the city’s redistricting commission, agreed.

“I think that map is horrendous, and I’m really hoping that a lawsuit is brought forward based on that map, and I’d be happy to testify against it if and when it happens,” Loza said.

Loza lamented that the redistricting commission spent 95 hours working on the map it submitted to the council. But the council redrew the commission’s map based on what Loza called “a backroom deal,” and the panel’s work went “down the toilet.”

Loza said although his primary concern is Hispanic representation, he’s also bothered by the fact that two of the LGBT community’s strongest allies were placed in the same district.

“I don’t think it’s as unfortunate to the LGBT community as it is to the Latino community, but I think it does both communities a disservice,” he said.

Under the plan, Oak Cliff south of Illinois Avenue is split along Hampton Avenue, with the east side being placed in what would be Caraway’s district and the west side in Hill’s.

Hill is the lone current council member who’s refused to appear at gay Pride or sign a letter congratulating organizers of the event.

Asked in 2009 why she won’t ride in the parade, Hill voiced religious objections to homosexuality, saying she believes that “there are acts God does not bless.”

Raymond Crawford, who is gay and serves as president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Hampton Road and Kiest Boulevard as a “gayborhood.” Crawford counts 15 gay households on his street — Southwood Drive — alone.

Under the redistricting plan, the 400-plus-home Kiestwood neighborhood, currently represented by Griggs, would be placed in Hill’s district.

“The day she [Hill] comes to call to do some door-knocking or to get some votes, whether I’m the president or not, it’s going to be an interesting conversation with Councilmember Hill,” Crawford said this week. “She’ll be in trouble in 2013 based on her previous statements.”

Hill didn’t respond to a phone call seeking comment.

VIEW A MAP OF THE REDISTRICTING PLAN: CLICK HERE

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Tom Leppert is running for Senate, but Chris Heinbaugh will remain in the mayor’s office

In case you missed it, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate today.

Not long after Leppert’s video announcement (above) was posted to his campaign website, we spoke with his openly gay chief of staff in the mayor’s office, Chris Heinbaugh.

Leppert, who announced his resignation Wednesday, will remain mayor until 11:59 p.m. today, at which point Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will take over.

Heinbaugh declined to publicly comment on the Twitter message sent out by Leppert on Wednesday, in which he slammed President Barack Obama for ordering the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Heinbaugh, who is no longer handling media calls for Leppert, advised Instant Tea to contact the mayor’s Senate campaign office about the tweet. We left a message with campaign spokeman Shawn McCoy but haven’t heard back.

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

Heinbaugh did tell us that he plans to remain in the mayor’s office to help Caraway, who will serve out the remainder of Leppert’s term — until a new mayor is elected in May and sworn in in June. In other words, Heinbaugh will not be going to work on Leppert’s campaign.

“I’m gonna be here for a while,” Heinbaugh said from City Hall. “I’m just going to continue on in the office and do whatever I can to help Mr. Caraway. If I can make it a good, stable, smooth transition, then great.”

Heinbaugh said he won’t serve as Caraway’s chief of staff, and it’s still unclear what exactly his role will be. However, he said both Caraway and City Manager Mary Suhm have expressed a desire for him to stay on.

“We’ve got a lot of things going, and they don’t just stop if the mayor walks our the door,” Heinbaugh said.

We asked Heinbaugh about the challenge of working for Caraway, whose recent missteps have prompted concerns from other council members about him serving as mayor — even temporarily.

“Mr. Caraway is a good guy,” Heinbaugh responded. “I’ve known him for a long, long time. Ever since I moved to Dallas, I’ve known him. His heart is in the right place, and he will work very hard for the next four months.

“Over and over again he’s said, ‘I’m not going to start some new initiative — dig up Main Street and stick a river down it,’” Heinbaugh said. “We’re just going to continue the things that are already moving forward. I’m here to help him do that as long as he wants me here.”

—  John Wright