Monday, October 03, 2005

10-4-1 protested at council

10-4-1 protested at council
Law firm OK'd for election suit
Lori Stahl Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News THE
Published: August 10, 1989



At the final City Council meeting before Saturday's election, council members Wednesday faced a "silent' protest from opponents of the 10-4-1 council plan and, in an unrelated vote, committed $100,000 to defend Dallas' municipal election system in court.

The council voted to spend up to $100,000 to hire a Baltimore law firm to help defend the city in the suit, which charges that the city's current method of electing council members is discriminatory. The suit is scheduled to go before a federal judge Sept. 5. On Saturday, voters will decide whether to replace the system of electing eight council members from single-member districts and three, including the mayor, at large. The 10-4-1 plan, Proposition 1 on the ballot, calls for 10 members to be elected from single-member districts and four from geographic quadrants. The mayor still would be elected at large.

Regardless of what voters decide, a federal judge will review 10-4-1 and other options during a hearing on the lawsuit. The suit, which was filed before the charter election was scheduled, seeks a system in which all members could be elected from single-member districts.

Council members Diane Ragsdale, Lori Palmer and Al Lipscomb voted against hiring the firm, Piper & Marbury. All three oppose the 10-4-1 plan.

"Ms. Ragsdale and I are supposed to pay for that?' said Mr. Lipscomb. "That would be like paying for our own handcuffs.'

Ms. Palmer said the 10-4-1 plan -- which city attorneys likely will be defending in court if it is approved by voters -- is "regressive' and would not increase minority representation on the council.

Ms. Palmer said she believes that U.S. District Judge Jerry Buch-meyer will implement a fairer system than 10-4-1.

Council member Harriet Miers, who is a lawyer, defended the decision to hire an outside law firm.

"We don't pay our city attorneys to be experts in every minute area of the law,' she said.

Assistant City Attorney Paul Pearce said Piper & Marbury has a national reputation for successfully defending other election systems with at-large components.

Council discussion of an unrelated matter was briefly disrupted when about 16 protesters rose from their seats in the audience and put paper bags over their heads. The bags bore hand-painted messages saying that the re-districting plan on Saturday's ballot is unfair to minorities.

The protesters left the council chambers as Mayor Annette Strauss was asking them to remove the bags or be escorted away by police. Outside the chambers, organizers said they simply wanted to register their opposition to the re-districting plan. In recent weeks, some of the same protesters have chanted, sung and worn chains to illustrate their view that the proposal is regressive.

Illustration: PHOTO(S): (The Dallas Morning News: Richard Michael Pruitt) Opponents of the 10-4-1 redistricting plan protest silently by wearing paper sacks over their heads during Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting.

PHOTO LOCATION: Dallas, Texas-City Council (cf 33086).



Copyright 1989 The Dallas Morning News Company

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