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Erin Shank: Racial gerrymandering of Waco must end

Erin Shank: Racial gerrymandering of Waco must end

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Texas House districts

While much of Waco and western McLennan County currently falls into Texas House District 56, East Waco and portions of North and South Waco are in the more rural District 12, which stretches east and south to Brazos County.

Waco is truly a magical city. I have loved it since we first decided to move to Central Texas over 26 years ago. Waco is experiencing tremendous revitalization, growth and expansion. Baylor University is growing in prominence on a national basis in both academia and athletics. Downtown Waco has been graced with the Silo District, which is bringing tourism and tourist dollars to Waco. East Waco is also experiencing tremendous revitalization with quaint restaurants, new hotels and other businesses coming to life where boarded up buildings previously lined Elm Avenue.

But Waco is literally divided racially in its representation before the Texas House of Representatives. The beautiful Brazos River runs through the heart of downtown Waco. East Waco, a historically Black and historically economically challenged portion of Waco, sits on one side of the Brazos River. Residents of East Waco could literally walk to Baylor University from their homes and businesses. Those residents could also walk across the Suspension Bridge over the Brazos River and right into the office of the representative who represents most of Waco in District 56 of the Texas House of Representatives.

However, our fellow Wacoans who reside in East Waco are represented in the Texas House by a representative who lives and works in College Station. Think about that: One of our most economically challenged portions of Waco is not represented in Austin by a representative who lives and works in Waco. That community is represented by a representative who lives and works 90-plus miles away from Waco. It’s truly sad, even tragic, that a representative who lives and works in Aggieland is representing the minority population in the home of the Baylor Bears.

Even on the west side of the Brazos River, predominantly Black communities of Waco currently have their House district line drawn so that they are also represented by the College Station representative in the Texas House, and not by a representative that lives and works in the Waco community. It is racially discriminatory to force certain citizens of Waco to be represented by a representative who does not live and work in Waco and who therefore cannot give those citizens the representation that they need and deserve in the Texas House of Representatives.

Therefore, I respectfully request, and strongly urge, the Texas Legislature, to stop dividing our beautiful community and let Waco and East Waco, strong communities of interest, be represented by the same representative in the Texas House. The portion of Waco that is currently drawn into House District 12 (East Waco) should be joined with House District 56 (Waco).

The Texas Legislature should allow all of the citizens of McLennan County to see and comment on the voting maps proposed for McLennan County, which are currently being drawn by the Texas Legislature, before they are voted on, to make sure that the maps of this county are fairly drawn and that this racial gerrymandering in McLennan County comes to an end.

Erin Shank is a local bankruptcy attorney. She and her husband, John, were honored in 2019 by Waco’s Historic Landmark Preservation Commission for adaptive reuse of an Austin Avenue home.

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