Saturday, July 05, 2008

Legal Action in Irving

Things are still happening in Irving, although I haven't posted anything on it recently. There are a couple of lawsuits in the works. One is against the City Council's at-large election system and the other is against the school district's at-large election system. Here's the story. The ACLU has been involved in a few lawsuits against at-large election systems, and evidently such systems have been overturned before, especially notably in Dallas in 1988.

One of the tests that any proposed single member district plan has to pass is whether or not it would produce minority leaders. That may be hard to pull off, although while this fight seems to be mainly between Hispanic activists and the city leadership, it should be noted that Irving has a historic African American community. It should be noted that at present the city council is all white, despite a slightly more than 10% African-American community and a 31% Hispanic community as of the 2000 census. Whites make up 64% of the population as of 2000, but control all 9 council seats (including the mayor).

Now one needn't presuppose that an all-white council cannot govern a multi-cultural, multi-racial city fairly and equally, doing justice for all. By and large, the kind of overt racial politics of the Old South are gone. While the focus of some council members on immigration issues evokes suspicion of race-based hostility, the dominant forces of the council are those that are concerned with keeping Irving's economic growth and renovation on track. However, just because people are not acting with racist motives it doesn't mean their efforts don't negatively impact certain groups more than others. Again, as the great apartment debate goes on, we see that the city is cracking down on apartments which appeal to a certain class of people, many of whom happen to be poorer Hispanic people. It might be that if they were free to elect a council member who was looking out for their interests there would be more projects focusing on the improvement of living conditions for Irving's poorest instead of redeveloping those areas into attractions for people with money.

Some people look at Dallas and charge that the single-member districts work to the detriment of the city as a whole, since the council members will work for their own interests (namely the good of their electorate). As is pointed out though, corruption didn't begin with the ending of the at-large elections; it was already well established.

As regards the school district, the numbers are a little more convincing. Irving's school populace is roughly 67% Hispanic, yet not one Hispanic serves on the school board. Two Hispanic candidates were defeated in the elections. It's not like the whites got together and said, "Hey, we can't let those damn Mexicans get on to the school board" or anything. It's just that with at-large elections, the white majority holds sway, even though they represent a third of the school populace. There's got to be something wrong with that.

It'll be interesting when these cases go to court.

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