Thursday, November 19, 2009

Montgomery Population Changes - Redistribution of Districts in 2010

Every ten years, the U.S. census is taken, and from that census, county districts are redrawn based on population. New numbers have arrived prior to the 2010 census;these are predictions of the census results based on data collected by the U.S Census Bureau and the state. As many people here know, Montgomery County is a hot spot for growth, ranking high  in job and population growth. The county has been exploding this decade  (2000-2008). CNN Money Magazine stated in 2007 that the jobs have grown 38.3% from 2000 to 2007, ranking Montgomery County at 16th in the nation. The county is predicted to grow in population by a whopping 82% in this decade! This is significant and is a driving factor for planning action in this county. The country is taking notice of this.

Our County Judge, Alan Sadler, has assessed the distribution of this growth and believes there will be only one precinct that will be expanded to balance population growth in 2010. That will be a  minor change. Precinct 3 should not be affected! Based on predictions released today, precinct 3 should remain status quo in area coverage in 2010. The reason for minimal change is that the population increases have been uniform throughout most of the county in this decade. The judge is getting a jump start on planning for next year when any redistribution must occur. He pointed out that our county growth in the 70's and 80's had significant impact on district boundaries but in 2000, there was not much change and in 2010, we can expect even less change. This is a booming county overall. No longer is it just a booming south county.

Newly available data is also exposing demographic change in our  county. Of special note, our Hispanic population has been far below that of Harris County. Now the Montgomery County population boom is notably drawing on an increased influx of Hispanics, probably in all economic sectors. The Anglo population percentage is noted to have grown about 51%, where the Hispanic community will have grown by 128% over the past decade!  As a comparison, the Harris County growth of Hispanics from 2000 to 2008 was  about a 19% increase.  Demographic statistics will show Anglos at 77% of the population and the Hispanics at 18% of the population in Montgomery County. Other ethnic/racial groups are a much lower percentage of the overall population. By comparison, Harris County will have roughly about 36% Anglo and 39% Hispanic (based on 2008 population estimates). Statewide, Hispanics make up some 36% of  the population, putting us below the average. All of these statistics are based on the assumption that the 2000 Census is fully correct and that the data from births and immigration in subsequent years represent the population changes.

So what does all of this mean? Let's just take it in its simplicity. First, Montgomery County is growing at a tremendous rate. That translates to schools, roads, home development, commercial development, jobs, and other infrastructure expansions required to sustain the growth if current residents are not to be crowded out. Fortunately we are seeing a rise in employment even in this downturn of the economy. The numbers also show us that Spanish as a first language is on the rise in our county. That has significant implications in study programs in our schools, labeling of products and signage in commercial areas. It is an important factor in considering the future of our county.

From everything I have seen, I doubt if we will know how many of the Hispanics are eligible to vote. Assuming everyone is legal, the number of Hispanic voters may be different  since Resident Visas do not give a person the right to vote. Voting influence of the community may not be as high as the commercial influence the Hispanics will have on  our economy.

Although the current economy has slowed home and commercial sales,  it has not stopped our growth. That growth also affects inflation by normal laws of supply and demand. The county remains a desirable place to live, work and play, and the commercial community is playing that up by attracting more and more businesses to the area. With all of that factored into the vision of the future, we can't help but feel there is no stopping this momentum. Our county judges are being challenged with this day after day. We will have more to say about this in coming days in the Commentary.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Woodlands Election Dates Announced

The Woodlands election ballots will be composed of the village Resident Design Review Committee (RDRC) positions and village associations' positions. Each village has a separate ballot; only the positions open in that village appears on the ballot.  Generally, about half of the positions come up for election each year in each village to encourage smooth transitions from year to year. These elections will be held annually according to the by-laws of those organizations.

Section 9.06 of the "WCA Covenants, Restrictions, Easements, Charges and Liens of  The Woodlands" designates that 'Each RDRC shall hold regular meetings at least monthly and be "open" to all "Members".' This makes these meetings open to residents of the community. These elected residents act on behalf of the village to review violations and requests by residents. Requests first go through a quick process and if there are planned violations, the RDRC must get  involved. Residents are afforded a second review on appeal if they think the Design Review Committee (DSC) will or should grant their requested plan, where the RDRC has denied it. Most issues are resolved by the RDRC, but the DSC has the last word. One RDRC will consist of about 5 residents. Often it is difficult to get sufficient residents to apply for these positions, so please try to participate if you can.    

Village associations typically have a president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer as officers. Additionally, there are generally representative positions to create neighborhood diversity on the elected board. So one village association will consist of 9 or 10 elected residents.
The Township has consolidated the Woodlands Election into one week, where we had two weeks in the past to vote.  The election schedule this year will be:
  • Application for candidates - Dec 31, 2009 - Jan 21, 2010. One person may apply for more than one position. A resident can serve on both the village association and the RDRC concurrently. Application details will be found on the association's website which will be changing in the near future as final transitions are completed for the Township.  
  • Early voting - there is no distinction this year between early voting and "election day". It is all at the same location, and the process is exactly the same - Feb 15-20 at the Community Associations building (across from the Methodist Church) at 2201 Lake Woodlands Drive. Just come vote one of those days. The hours will be announced later. 
It is important for residents to understand the difference between the "Woodlands Election" and the "Township election".

The Woodlands election requires only proof of residency. If a voter is over 18 and lives in the village, that person is eligible to vote in that village election. Home ownership lays no role and neither does citizenship status or voter registration.

The Township election requires full voter registration and residence. It is conducted on official government election dates at county voting locations. In May, 2010, we will be going to the polls again to elect Township directors for the remaining open positions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Community Elections coming up soon

It wont be long before we need to show up at the polls again.

This time it will be for village associations and the village RDRCs. Both are important. Those elected to serve in the village associations will be engaged in more than social activities. They are often acting as an organization for resident concerns and maintaining a vigilant watch for improving the community. This coming year, they will take on a new role - one of a liaison to represent the concerns and issues of its residents to the Township board. The reverse will be true as well. They will be receiving information and guidance from the Township on village activities and issues on behalf of the residents.

Those elected to serve on RDRCs will be tasked with resident conformation to property  standards. They enforce the covenants, hopefully in a way the community approves. This is the neighbor link to enforcement of standards. All meetings of the RDRC are "open", meaning that the members cannot conduct business except by prior notification of an agenda to the public and conduct their meetings strictly according to the agenda. Residents are invited to attend each and every RDRC meeting.

Please consider participating in one of these organizations and volunteer to be elected to one of the positions available in your village. More information will be made available when January rolls around. Look for how to participate and then go to the polls when the elections are held.