In response to my post, I was told that Richardson does, too, have divisions. After the jump, a look at what those divisions might be and what impact single member districts might have on those divisions.
The divisions in Richardson are not the "racial and ethnic divisions along geographic lines" that I identified as Dallas's big problem and why Dallas has single member districts today. If there are geographic divisions in Richardson, they are not racial or ethnic. For example, here is the percent of residents recorded as "White" in 2000 Census data, by Richardson council district:
Not much difference there. So, if the divisions aren't racial, what are they? Paralleling Dallas's racial and ethnic divisions are socioeconomic divisions. The differences between, say, Dallas's Preston Hollow neighborhood and its Fair Park neighborhood are obvious even without laying eyes on a single resident of those neighborhoods. Nothing like that divide exists on the same scale in Richardson. Using property value as a proxy for socioeconomic status, here are the median property values by Richardson council district from Dallas CAD and Collin CAD 2004 data:
Not much difference there, either, at least in three of Richardson's four districts. Only District 2 in northeast Richardson stands out.
More separation can be seen if we look at the age of houses in each of the four districts. Below are the percentages of houses built during recent decades for each district. Only the peak building periods are filled in, to highlight the average age of homes in each district. The districts are sorted from southwest Richardson to northeast Richardson, to highlight the obvious geographic pattern of development:
|District||Decade of Construction|
Clearly, Richardson was built out from southwest to northeast, from the 1950s to the 1990s and later. If aging neighborhoods pose a serious challenge for Richardson (as I believe they do), and if commercial redevelopment and neighborhood integrity should be priorities (as I believe they should), then the evidence for this should be more and more apparent as you travel from northeast to southwest Richardson. And I think most people would agree that just such evidence is apparent.
But is this enough to justify single member districts? Even though there's a distinct overall pattern of increasingly older neighborhoods from northeast to southwest, for voting purposes that spectrum is segmented into only four districts. There's really not that much difference in the averages from district to district (look at those median property values again) to expect vastly different voter careabouts. Moreover, you can find aging neighborhoods everywhere in Richardson. Even in northeast Richardson's District 2, almost half of the houses are 20 to 30 years old or more. That's at the threshold of decline unless neighborhood integrity measures are in place. Because this issue is citywide, many voters all across the city are already sensitive to it and support efforts to address it, no matter where it is occurring in the city. For example, District 3's West Spring Valley Corridor Reinvestment Strategy is moving forward because all districts recognize that the survival of each neighborhood is vital to the overall health of the city. There's no evidence that switching to a system of single member districts would elect a city council any more sensitive to this issue than our current council is.
All data is from the 2000 Census Book prepared by the City of Richardson.