Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hispanics discouraged by prospect of 10-4-1. Plan would not deliver 3 seats, some say

Hispanics discouraged by prospect of 10-4-1 Plan would not deliver 3 seats, some say
Lori Stahl Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS (DAL)
Published: MARCH 24, 1991

For most of his 38 years, Luis Sepulveda has been troubled by the deterioration in his west Oak Cliff neighborhood. He has often wondered whether his children are being exposed to harmful chemicals from nearby industry. Or whether the city could do more to battle crime, to fill pot-holes or to raze condemned buildings.

He's not a politician; he's a neighborhood baseball coach.
Physically disabled, he devotes much of his time to working in the neighborhood. Until recently, he was thinking about trading in his baseball cap for a place on the ballot.

Mr. Sepulveda, a political unknown, was going to run for the Dallas City Council under the 14-1 plan. Now he's among several Hispanic candidates on the verge of concluding that a campaign under 10-4-1 is probably futile.

Their strategies reflect the views of many Hispanics that the 10-4-1 plan won't deliver the three seats to Hispanics -- two single-member districts and a quadrant -- that proponents say.

This month, a federal appeals court called off the 14-1 elections scheduled for May. The appellate judges said they wanted the U.S. Justice Department to have time to consider the 10-4-1 configuration. Under that plan, approved by Dallas voters in August 1989, 10 council members would be elected by district, four by quadrant and the mayor at large. Under 14-1, a plan later rejected by voters, the mayor would run at large, and all council members would be elected by districts. The plan's supporters, and detractors such as Mr. Sepulveda, agree that its fate probably hinges on what Justice Department officials, who must grant approval before elections can be held, think the 10-4-1 plan will accomplish for Hispanics. "They don't dispute tha t African-Americans are going to control four seats, so it really comes down to the Hispanics, which is a much more complicated issue,' said Mike Mc-Kool, the city's lead attorney in the battle to win approval of 10-4-1. Some Hispanic leaders say there i s a lot of evidence that many people think the proposed Hispanic districts are the weakest link in the 10-4-1 plan. - They note: * Although the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the May elections to give the Justice Department time to review 10-4 -1, one member of the three-judge panel said during the hearing that he was concerned about treatment of Hispanics under that plan.

Judge E. Grady Jolly said that 10-4-1 "looks like a fair plan' on its face but that its "weakness' appeared to be the two districts drawn for Hispanics. * The 10-4-1 plan is really two plans. When the City Council asked the Justice Department to approve the system, it sent two maps to Washington -- a preferred plan and an alternate.

Both maps contain two Hispanic single-member districts, but the city's second choice offers slightly better odds to Hispanic candidates because the percentage of Hispanic residents in them is higher. "I viewed the second map as an admission that the first one is bad,' said Bill Garrett, the attorney representing Hispanic intervenors in the city's 3-year-old re-districting lawsuit.

Mr. McKool said: "It's an acknowledgment that you can get better numbers for Hispanics under the second map, have to gerry-mander. It was a compromise.' * The city has tried to have Hispanics removed from a voting rights lawsuit filed by two African-Americans who said the current election system diluted minority voting strength. "That's a recognition that Hispanics had a better claim for defeating 10-4-1,' Mr. Garrett said.

Mr. McKool said that the proposed exclusion was a legal strategy and that "the council has instructed us not to do it for political reasons, and that's fine.' * Two council members who supported Justice Department review of 10-4-1 threatened to withdraw their support if the city continued to say the plan would give Hispanics and African-Americans "an equal opportunity' in the electoral process.

Mayor Annette Strauss and council member Harriet Miers, both of whom support 14-1, said they were willing to send the 10-4-1 maps to the Justice Department because voters approved the concept in a 1989 referendum. But they said assertions that it would promote equality were inaccurate.

Proponents of 10-4-1 say Hispanics could win two single-member district seats under that plan -- one in Oak Cliff and the other in the inner city -- as well as one quadrant seat. They cite statistics showing that Hispanics are a majority of the population in those districts.

But Hispanic opponents say such statistics are misleading.

Hispanics who are citizens and of voting age constitute far below the 65 percent generally considered the threshold of a "safe' district -- that is, a district specifically designed to represent a certain minority group.

Hispanics would make up 55 percent of the voting age population in the Oak Cliff district and 47 percent of eligible voters in the inner-city district under the city's preferred plan. They would make up 46 percent of the voting population in one quadrant, which remains the same in both plans submitted to Washington.

Some Hispanics say those margins aren't enough to ensure that they would be able to elect the candidate of their choice. But 10-4-1 proponents disagree. "It wouldn't be as persuasive if the population growth were - stagnant,' Mr. Mc-Kool said. "The feeling is that while two of the districts are not what we call safe for Hispanics, they clearly are dominated by Hispanics. .So what you end up with is, you say the Hispanic population is growing extremely rapidly, and by mid-decade, they will have control of all three districts.' African-Americans, meanwhile, represent more than 60 percent of the voting-age population in four districts -- including one quadrant -- under both 10-4-1 maps. "The blacks don't do that bad under 10-4-1, but for Hispanic s, it's horrible,' said Domingo Garcia, who was considering a City Council bid for an Oak Cliff seat under 14-1.

Demographics aside, some Hispanics also complain that boundaries for their districts are similar to those of white incumbents Charles Tandy and Lori Palmer -- making the districts almost unwinnable for Hispanic challengers. "Dr. Tandy, with (white voters in) Kessler Park and Stevens Park, can probably defeat any Hispanic that runs,' said Tom Lazo, president of the Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has supported the 14-1 plan. "Lori Palmer, I don't think, would be that much different. Her voter base is still pretty much intact. She would be tough to beat. "These people are saying three Hispanics will be elected?

They're blue-skying.' That conviction is so deeply held that several Hispanic men who, like Mr. Sepulveda, planned to run under the 14-1 plan said they probably won't mount a campaign if elections are held under 10-4-1.

Ricardo Medrano, a former City Council member who planned to run in the inner-city Hispanic district under 14-1, said he would bow out under 10-4-1 if Ms. Palmer ran for re-election.

Mr. Garcia, who made a strong showing last year in an effort to unseat state Rep. Steve Wolens in Oak Cliff, said he "strongly doubts' he will mount a campaign against Dr. Tandy. "I think it would be an extremely remote possibility that you'd have a viable Mexican-American candidate run for that district under 10-4-1,' Mr. Garcia said. "Under a 14-1 appeared a Mexican-American would be elected -- it was just a question of which one.' Mr. Sepulveda, who planned to run for the same Oak Cliff seat as Mr. Garcia, agreed: "Do you think I'd stand a chance against Dr. Tandy? I'm not going to get into anything I can't win.' A fourth Hispanic, lawyer Chris Luna, said he still planned to run if elections were held under 10-4-1. But Mr. Luna, an associate with the downtown law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, said he, too, thinks the 14-1 plan offers better assurances of Hispanic representation on the council. "I think I can build a coalition in either district,' Mr. Luna said. "There wer e some candidates who were focusing sole-ly on Hispanic issues, and I think they would have a harder time under 10-4-1.' But if some Hispanics think they would lose the two single-member districts to white incumbents, they think the Hispanic quadrant sea t is winnable -- at a price.

Mounting a campaign to cover a quarter of the city will be costly. For that reason, some Hispanics say, the victor will be whoever gets the support of the downtown business establishment. "That's what I think is repugnant to the 14-1 advocates -- the strings-attached mentality,' said Dallas Park Board member Rene - Martinez, who initially supported 10-4-1 and later supported 14-1 after elections were ordered under it. "There are others in the (Hispanic) community that realize you've got to have a relationship with the business community,' Mr. Martinez said. "I still feel 14-1 offers the best opportunity, but I just wish we would have an election.' But the prospect of whites from outside the quadrant playing a decisive role in that campaign is more than some Hispanics can tolerate. "He would be hand-picked by the Anglos like Al Gonzalez, and we would have no input,' said Guillermo Galindo, chairman of Barrios Unidos, a grass-roots political organization. Mr. Galindo was referring to the last Hispanic to serve on the council. Mr. Gonzalez won an at-large seat with backing from some business leaders.

Mr. Lazo from the Hispanic chamber said he thinks business leaders would try to field a Hispanic candidate for the quadrant seat to prove that one can be elected under 10-4-1. "If people don't believe there are power brokers in this city, they're very naive,' Mr. Lazo said.

Some Hispanics say a 10-4-1 election invariably would lead to more legal wrangling, regardless of what happens with the quadrant seat. "If indeed those incumbents ran and those incumbents were re-elected to the exclusion of Hispanics, we would file another lawsuit,' said Diana Orozco, past president of the Mexican-American Bar Association. "We'll have more evidence.'

PHOTO(S): 1. (The Dallas Morning News: Richard Wright) Political unknown Luis Sepulveda of west Oak Cliff was going to run for the Dallas City Council under the 14 1 plan. Now he's one of several Hispanics on the verge of deciding that a campaign under 10 4 1 is probably futile. 2. (State Edition, Page 34A) Mike McKool 3. (State Edition, Page 34A) Domingo Garcia

MAP(S): Proposal for 10 4 1 System: 1. The Preferred Plan 2. The Alternate Plan 3. District A 4. District E 5. District A 6. District B (1 6. DMN)

PHOTO LOCATION: 1. Political Candidates S (cf 44623). 2. McKool, Mike. 3. Garcia, Domingo.

1991 Copyright The Dallas Morning News Company


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