District goes back to drawing board

BISD Trustee Janice Brassard looks on as demographer George J. Korbel talks abou

Number seven may be the charm, but an audience gathered at Beaumont Independent School District’s West Brook campus Tuesday, May 7, sounded off against BISD’s most recent redistricting map, which was only made available for review the same day. BISD is redistricting as part of a constitutional mandate that requires voting entities to re-evaluate their district lines after each census to ensure fair representation to all the population. BISD’s map was found out of compliance in 2010, and multiple variations of a new map have been shopped around the board of trustees and the community since 2011.

The newest map, Map 7G, was made by the district’s newest demographer, George J. Korbel. According to those opposed to the map, the recent edition splits county precinct lines, offers no representation for the Hispanic community, and includes the local prison population, although prisoners are not allowed to vote.

Beaumont LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) president Roberto Flores said the BISD Board of Trustees is ignoring the plight of his community.

“Many on this board do not want a Hispanic on this board,” he said. “We do not have representation on this board. Perhaps a new board would be a little bit more cooperative than this one.”

Also making a statement on behalf of the Hispanic community was Raul Garcia, who told the board that, “The problem of this board started when it decided to ignore the will of the people.” According to him, it was a largely Hispanic voting pool that pushed for changing trustee districts from seven single members (7/0) to that of five single members with two at-large (5/2) representatives.

Flores agreed the 5/2 plan was the best way for Hispanics to garner elected representation. “At least then we’d have an iota of a chance for representation. Now, we have zero chance,” he said.

Garcia expanded on his comments, saying it was the trustees’ job to fight for what the people voted into order, and instead they  have spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to do the opposite.

“The board should fight for us, not against us,” Garcia said. “Basically, you’re holding democracy hostage. You’re saying we don’t exist.

“Brown people today are the new blacks.”

Board president Woodrow Reece said he has no problem with his Hispanic constituents and has learned to live in harmony with those not of his ethnic background.

“Yes, we need Hispanics; they’re not going anywhere,” he said, adding that he lives in a Hispanic community. Reece then went on the offensive against the city of Beaumont and hecklers in the audience.

“The city didn’t want to have crossing guards,” Reece said. “That was pathetic.

“These are Beaumont kids, so Beaumont needs to take care of its taxpayers’ kids.”

Outrage from the crowd was withheld until Reece chided those in attendance about their choice of elected leaders and expressed doubt that the community would ever get along.

In defense of the silenced onlookers, BISD Trustee Tom Neild addressed the board president.

“I want to say something about the way you just talked to these people out here,” Neild said. “You need to look in the mirror yourself.”

Applause from the audience was cut down by Reece’s threat of, “Don’t get thrown out of here before we adjourn.”

A special meeting for 4:30 p.m. Monday, May 13, will be held as an encore review of the new map. According to information from BISD, the board will then consider, “possibly presenting (Map 7G) to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).” The meeting will also serve as a time for demographer Korbel to provide answers to DOJ questions about the current map (Map 7B) proposed for the next school board election.

The meeting will be held in the auditorium at Central Medical Magnet High School at 88 Jaguar Drive. The agenda includes the demographer’s presentation, questions and comments by trustees, and comments from members of the public who sign up to speak at the meeting. The meeting has two additional agenda items for trustees to consider — adopting an alternate seven single member district map for submission to the DOJ and reaffirming the Board of Trustees Election under the Texas Education Code to allow members to complete unexpired terms after redistricting.