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MCC board hears redistricting plans due to census

MCC board hears redistricting plans due to census

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McLennan Community College trustees started preparing Tuesday to redraw their district boundaries, but delays in the 2020 census mean the board likely will not know for several months whether it will need to follow through with the process.

Baylor University law professor Mike Morrison, who with now retired colleague David Guinn has handled redistricting studies for local governmental bodies for several decades, discussed the process ahead with trustees during their virtual board meeting Tuesday.

“I feel like ‘Brigadoon.’ We have a census every ten years, and I come out of the mist to do redistricting for 10 to 12 months,” Morrison said, referring to a 1954 musical’s titular village that appears for one day every century.

Because of a delay in reporting the 2020 census findings to Congress, the data needed for redistricting consideration likely will not arrive until May or later, Morrison said. He would work to have a report to the board by October.

If 2020 population figures show a 10% difference in population between any two districts, the board may have to change district lines. If so, Morrison would present a proposed redistricting plan for trustees to use as a starting point. Trustees likely would pay particularly close attention to any proposal that might divide a neighborhood or other type of community.

“There are things about your district that I don’t know,” Morrison said.

Redistricting based on the 2020 census also will not require preclearance approval from the Justice Department because of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act. Morrison said Trustees may want to create an advisory committee with members of the community representing each district, though an advisory committee could slow down the process.

Trustees also approved the date for the board’s spring election as May 1 with a filing deadline of Feb. 12. Trustee positions up for election this year are Districts 2, 4 and 6, currently held by Earl Stinnett Sr., Ricky Turman and board President K. Paul Holt, respectively. Trustee positions are for a six-year term.

Alice Starr plaza

In other action, trustees voted to name a plaza after Alice Starr. She and husband Ken Starr, an attorney and former Baylor president, will donate $127,500 in support of scholarships through the MCC Presidential Scholars program, MCC Foundation President Kim Patterson said. The college’s naming policy requires a gift amount to at least 51% of the namesake property’s value.

The plaza to bear Alice Starr’s name borders the Learning Technology Center in the center of campus.

Patterson said the Starrs have supported the college’s educational efforts, including its Presidential Scholars program, in the past. They also often walk through the MCC campus and have expressed their appreciation of it, she said. In response, Trustee Doug McDurham said he and his wife, Robin, have occasionally encountered the Starrs on their campus walks.

The MCC board also approved Patterson’s request to build a second campus arbor, complete with swing and seating, to honor former McLennan County state representative and senator Murray Watson Jr., who died in 2018. The second arbor, identical to one built last year near the Ball Performing Arts Center, would be named the Murray and Greta Watson Arbor and be built near the Michaelis Academic Center and Enrollment Services building. Murray was one of the founders of the Brazos Higher Education Service Corporation, Inc., which donated $60,000 for the project. A bid for its construction, however, came in at $90,200. College staff likely can take on some of the work themselves to get the cost closer to the donation amount, said Stephen Benson, vice president for finance and administration.

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