Devine City Council discusses redistricting, sets Public Hearing for Nov. 18

A Public Hearing regarding the redistricting of Devine’s five municipal voting districts is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18, the date of the next Regular City Council meeting.
The City is faced with redistricting because according to 2020 census data, its voting districts have a deviation percentage of over 40 percent, a figure that must be no more than 10 percent in order to be constitutional.
Devine’s population of 4,324 is split between voting districts in the following way: District 1 – 922; District 2 – 651; District 3 – 1,025; District 4 – 787; District 5 – 939.
Deviation percentage is calculated by subtracting the population of the smallest district (651) from the population of the largest district (1,025). The resulting number (374) is then divided by the ideal number (865), which in Devine’s case is found by dividing the total population (4,324) by the number of voting districts (5).
Attorney Rolando Rios presented a plan at the September 21 Council meeting that would see Devine’s population spread more evenly among the five districts, with a projected deviation of 4.05 percent. Council discussed that plan’s merits and drawbacks during a meeting on October 19.
“I get that we all have to be more or less equal in population size,” District 5 Councilwoman Debbie Randall said. “I get that, but they want to take ninety people out of District 5 to give to District 4.”
If Rios’s plan is adopted as presented, the district population distribution will be adjusted as follows: District 1 – 880; District 2 – 845; District 3 – 873; District 4 – 877; District 5 – 849.

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In order to achieve that, district boundaries will be tweaked. Several blocks currently in District 5 will become part of District 4, while District 1 and District 3 will cede ground to District 2.
Randall said that District 5’s population will not increase in the future because it has “zero extra land” to build on, while new homes are planned for District 4.
District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler pointed out that the redistricting has to be done according to the 2020 census population figures.
“Yes, we can, but that doesn’t mean I have to lose ninety whole people,” Randall said. “I could lose thirty or forty.”
Mayor Cory Thompson said that District 5 and District 3 are the most built-out districts in Devine.
“I know that we have a certain level of discretion,” Thompson said. “I believe that any decision we make still has to go back to [Rios].”
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa asked if Randall wanted some of District 4’s land.
“I don’t want land,” Randall said, “I just don’t want to give up as many people.”
District 2 Councilwoman Angela Pichardo said that Council needed to be sure the voting districts comply with federal law.
“The projection is the current census,” Pichardo said. “And that’s what, by law, that’s what we need to look at.”
“I understand that,” Randall replied. “But I could have the 880 knowing that I’m never going to get there.”
Randall also noted that the ideal population for each district is 865, but that under Rios’s plan, no district hits that exact figure.
Pichardo then pointed out that apartment complexes also bring growth and development.
“To Angela’s point, if somebody was to put in a development outside the city limits and ask for water and sewer, they would have to become part of the city,” Thompson said. “But that could happen, theoretically, in any district, because all districts actually touch the county boundary. We do not have a landlocked district.”
Pichardo said that if developers bought property outside the city limits there would be growth that would likely include a need for City utilities and annexation.
“I understand your point, Debbie, that you’re looking at growth potential,” Pichardo said. “But I think every area has the potential to grow, it’s just how you’re going to do it.”
An Espinosa-Randall motion to set a Public Hearing on redistricting for Nov. 16 passed unanimously with the backing of Lawler, Pichardo, and District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer