City Council Redistricting and the Race for Bexar County Sheriff | Texas Public Radio

City Council Redistricting and the Race for Bexar County Sheriff

Sep 19, 2012

With population shifts revealed by the latest census numbers, it was time to re-draw city council districts. David Mendez is the man charged with drawing the new boundaries and making sure everyone has equal representation in San Antonio. The race for Bexar County Sheriff features Democrat incumbent Amadeo Ortiz and Republican Retired Air Force General Susan Pamerleau.

“Simplistically said, San Antonio’s population growth during the decade is Hispanic, very much Hispanic," said David Mendez, who has been drawing redistricting maps for more than 30 years.

He said San Antonio is straightforward when it comes to redrawing city council district lines, but what was different for the Alamo City during this Census round is where the growth was reported, and who was moving there.

“The Hispanics did not stay in the Hispanic parts of town," he said. "They moved to the north," and it’s that shift north that explains San Antonio’s tremendous growth on the north side.

Since Mendez’s job is to follow the Voting Rights Act, he must protect the districts where minority groups are the majority of voters so they can elect candidates of their choice. Although the concentration of minorities has vastly changed, he still had to keep districts strong in their minority representation.

Using race is allowable to accomplish that, “but race cannot be the be-all and end-all of it," said Mendez. "It can be used to the narrow extent of remediating voting rights problems of the past. So I can use race to the minimum extent necessary to avoid retrogressing a district.”

The Race for Bexar County Sheriff

Amadeo Ortiz campaign photo.
Credit Ortiz campaign

Democrat incumbent Amadeo Ortiz and Republican challenger Susan Pamerleau

Pamerleau was quick to criticize a series of incidents at the Bexar County Jail involving misconduct on the part of jail guards.

"There are more than 15-20 examples of gross mismanagement on the part of the sheriff," said Pamerleau. "From drugs coming into the jail; from sexual abuse of prisoners; prisoners walking out the door. The jail is dysfunctional. In fact, it's something that the sheriff hasn't been able to fix."

"The jail is full of people who are law breakers," responded Ortiz. "We don't have boy scouts in the jail - and throughout the nation, anyone who runs a large jail will tell you that you are going to have problems. It's not the problems that you have, it's how you resolve them and how you attempt to keep them from happening again that is what is important."

Susan Pamerleau at a campaign event.
Credit Pamerleau campaign

Another hot topic in this race is the incidents this summer involving the deaths of several police dogs.

"(Sheriff Ortiz) responds to resolve things when they happen," said Pamerleau. "The importance of leadership is anticipating, planning, making sure there are policies in place to assure that these kinds of things don't happen. So when Duke, the first dog that died two years ago, when that dog died that equipment should have been placed in K-9 vehicles."

"It could have been avoided," said Ortiz. "We did have some equipment that we could have installed, but it didn't get installed. The second incident where the two dogs died could have been avoided had there been the proper equipment installed; however the equipment we had on hand I don't think would have helped in that incident because the officer was no where near the vehicle."

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