SBOE Member Lawrence Allen Doesn't Live in the District

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Lawrence Allen Jr. might be convinced to the contrary, but the state agency that oversees redistricting confirms the seven-year member of the State Board of Education no longer lives within the boundaries of his own district.

Allen is the voice of much of the urban Houston area and one of only two African-American members on the SBOE. A special projects coordinator with the Houston Independent School District, Allen replaced his own mother on the SBOE when Alma Allen went on to a successful run for the House of Representatives.

Confusion over Allen's residency arose when the first maps of current SBOE districts were distributed to the House Redistricting Committee. They came without incumbents -- one sign out of the ordinary -- and further questioning by committee members of the Texas Legislative Council brought to light the fact that no incumbent resided in SBOE District 4. Instead, paperwork showed both Allen and his Republican colleague Marsha Farney lived in District 7.

Allen, asked about the residency issue at this morning's House Redistricting Committee meeting, seemed quite convinced his new house in Fresno was within the boundaries of SBOE District 4, which includes a sliver of Fort Bend County.

"That portion of Fort Bend County is where I live," Allen said. "I moved out of Harris County. My address (on the SBOE Web site) used to say Lawrence Allen, Houston, Texas. Now it says Lawrence Allen, Fort Bend, Texas. I vetted it out before I moved, basically because there was nothing suitable in that (Houston) area that was nice enough to move because it was a low-income area and I was buying a home."

With that information in hand, the Texas Legislative Council was asked to confirm, once again, which address it used for Allen and whether it fell within Allen's district. Agency staff ran the address again, pulled it up on Google Earth and confirmed again that Allen lives in Farney's district.

Because the Texas Legislative Council is nonpartisan, it had little to say beyond that. State law seems inconclusive on what would happen to a SBOE member who did not live in his district, citing the standards for removal to be more along the lines of disability, an inability to serve or absence from more than half of the meetings.

Ironically, under the proposed redrawn map, neither Farney nor Allen would represent Fort Bend County. Instead, the area where Allen's home in Fresno is would go to a district currently represented by David Bradley, a longtime member who is often referred to as the godfather of the conservative bloc on SBOE.

Meanwhile, Representative Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) will propose to amend the proposed map next week so that two precincts in Fort Bend County are pulled back into the Houston-area district that Allen currently represents, hence allowing Allen to run in his district under the new map, if approved.

All SBOE members will have to run again in 2012 under the redrawn map.

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