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While there are no clear rules on how to define a community of interest, the following are the basic elements to help you describe your communities.
Oral Testimony – Personal stories are powerful. Share examples of things members of your community have in common and what makes your community unique. Imagine describing your community to a visitor from out of town. Does your neighborhood share certain celebrations or traditions, like street festivals or parades? Are there important places where your community gathers, like parks or community centers? What is the history of how your community came together?
Written Testimony – A written description can be used to tell your community’s story. Describe what connects the people and why it’s important that they be kept together during redistricting. Whenever possible include statistics to support your testimonies, including data on ethnicity, religious groups, education levels, graduation rates, median household income, poverty levels, access to technology, homeownership rates, language isolation, voter registration rates, etc. Consider using reliable sources such as the Census Bureau.
Community Issues – Communities often get involved in redistricting because they feel their issues have not been adequately addressed by their elected representatives. Highlighting community issues in personal stories and written narratives help demonstrate the importance of having elected officials who understand and respond to community needs. Has your community come together to advocate for important services, better schools, roads, or health centers in your neighborhood? Have you worked for more recognition or support of your community, like having holidays recognized or historical events commemorated?
Boundary Maps – Create a map of your neighborhood or area. Mark the street names and significant locations. You can include significant landmarks and gathering places, including social service agencies, community centers, shopping districts, schools, and religious places. It may be helpful to have or create a name for your community area to be a reminder.
I live in a unique area of Farmers Branch called Oak Knoll Valley. It is also a certified neighborhood council. The neighborhood is bounded between Highway 9 on the west and Sunnyside River on the east side. There are approximately 8,000 residents in Oak Knoll Valley and it is primarily a residential area with some areas zoned for commercial and mixed use especially along the river.
The languages spoken in Oak Knoll Valley are primarily English and Spanish with some residents speaking Vietnamese and Mandarin. While most residents go outside our community for shopping and employment, they tend to stay here for their socializing, religious activities and recreation. The Oak Knoll Regional Center provides a variety of activities and is a real hub of the community.
Across the river from Oak Knoll Valley is the community of River Glen which is similar to our community as it is primarily residential. We are in the same school district and the high school which Oak Knoll students attend is in River Glen. It would make sense that we would be included in the same legislative or Congressional district.
On the other side of Highway 9 is Gold City which is primarily an industrial and commercial area. Most of the residents live in multi-‐family apartment buildings and many of them are new to the area. Gold City is part of a different school district than Oak Knoll. While Gold City is in close proximity to Oak Knoll we have less in common than we do with River Glen.
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