Thursday, October 06, 2005

Council tells lawyers to settle voting suit Accord sought under 14-1 plan

Council tells lawyers to settle voting suit Accord sought under 14-1 plan
Lori Stahl Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS (DAL)
Published: MAY 9, 1991

On Page 14A Thursday, a quote from Mayor Annette Strauss was misplaced. The mayor said her statement "This is what I hoped would happen,' referred to the City Council's decision to seek a negotiated 14-1 settlement in the voting rights lawsuit, not the Justice Department's objection to the 10-4-1 council redistricting plan. (Friday, May 10, 1991)

The City Council ordered its attorneys Wednesday to settle the minority voting rights lawsuit that has divided Dallas for three years. The settlement would be based on the 14-1 council election plan that the city has fought in court. Many minority leaders have said that 14-1 is the only fair system because it eliminates any remnants of the at-large council seats a federal judge has ruled illegal. "I'm very pleased that this came down,' said Roy Williams, one of two African-Americans who three years ago filed the federal voting rights lawsuit against the city that led to the redistricting battle. "Hopefully we can end this once and for all.' Council members said they gave city attorneys 30 days to settle and threatened to reconsider the competing 10-4-1 election plan if the city and the plaintiffs don't reach an agreement by then.

The council's leading 10-4-1 proponent, Glenn Box, said he believes talk of revisiting that plan is rhetorical. "If they didn't do that, they wouldn't have any leverage in the settlement negotiations,' Mr. Box said.
The council's decision was made in a closed session. No vote was taken. Council members said afterward that seven members supported settlement negotiations and four opposed. "I'm optimistic that it can be worked out, and that's what we need to do,' said council member Diane Ragsdale.

The council attempted a negotiated settlement last fall, but the plan failed when voters rejected 14-1 in a referendum.

Mayor Annette Strauss said the decision to try again should end three years of divisiveness over council redistricting. Much of the battle has involved the competing 10-4-1 system, which was the focus of the city's legal appeal and the subject of a U.S. Justice Department ruling Monday. - "In my opinion, clearly the Justice Department objected to 10-4-1,' Mrs. Strauss said. "This is what I hoped would happen.' Council members said a negotiated agreement will hinge on three issues: drafting a new 14-1 district map, deciding whether elections will be held in August or November and agreeing on how much to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Talks are scheduled to begin Friday. The council agreed to meet twice a week with attorneys while the bargaining is under way.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and Hispanic intervenors said they believe that negotiations could go quickly. "I think we can do it in a week if everyone goes into it with good faith,' said Bill Garrett, the intervenors' attorney.

Under 14-1, 14 council members would be elected from single-member districts and the mayor would be elected citywide.

Under 10-4-1, 10 council members would be elected from districts, four from regional quadrants and the mayor at large.

Although Mr. Box stopped short Wednesday of pronouncing 10-4-1 dead, he gave the 14-1 settlement talks a better-than-even chance of success. "If there's a settlement reached, I think the days of 10-4-1 are behind us, unfortunately,' Mr. Box said. "Obviously, I was disappointed.' Some council members said the sticking point in negotiations is likely to be agreement on boundary lines for the 14 districts.

A redistricting commission produced a 14-1 map in February, in anticipation of a May 4 election ordered by U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer. But the election was called off by an appeals court to give the Justice Department time to review the 10-4-1 plan.

On Monday, after 10-4-1 was rejected, three council members switched their support to 14-1. Mayor Strauss and council members Harriet Miers and Dr. Charles Tandy, who earlier supported the city's appeal of the case, said they would favor a negotiated settlement.

Most council members said they would refuse to consider the original 14-1 map produced by the redistricting commission because it was severely gerrymandered.

Plaintiffs said they hope to focus on a "unity' map that would produce five black seats, two Hispanic ones and a racially mixed district in Oak Cliff. "Probably the most difficult aspect of it is the map,' said Ms. Miers. "The unity plan that has circulated drew very hostile reaction from some members who had not been consulted.' Dr. Tandy agreed. "There is no consensus in there on a map,' he said.

Dr. Tandy, who was a 10-4-1 supporter until his colleagues proposed an alternate 10-4-1 map last week, said he's "never been afraid of an all single-member district system.' He contended that the alternate map, designed to benefit Hispanic districts, shredded neighborhoods in his Oak Cliff district. "In either system the southern half (of Dallas) wins, because we get increased representation,' Dr. Tandy said.

Council members Al Lipscomb and John Evans said they had problems with the 14-1 "unity' map. Both said neighborhoods in their districts were carved up. "That map needs to be thrown away and start over,' Mr. Evans said. "I hate to see them cut up communities of interest.' Some council members said they were still bitter that their colleagues failed to support the revised 10-4-1 map. - "The whole process was corrupt,' said council member Jerry Bartos, a 10-4-1 supporter. "We hired an attorney and spent $1 million plus to fight a case we didn't want to win.' "I'd say it would be much like entering a marathon and when you see the finish line, sitting down and waiting to get beat.'

PHOTO(S): Charles Tandy. . . "There is no consensus in there on a map" of council districts.

CHART(S): (DMN) Settlement Points.

PHOTO LOCATION: Tandy, Charles.

1991 Copyright The Dallas Morning News Company


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1:41 PM  

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