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Houston Breakthrough, July 1979 - August 1979
Page 9
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Houston Breakthrough, July 1979 - August 1979 - Page 9. July 1979 - August 1979. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 1, 2015. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1537/show/1518.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(July 1979 - August 1979). Houston Breakthrough, July 1979 - August 1979 - Page 9. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1537/show/1518

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, July 1979 - August 1979 - Page 9, July 1979 - August 1979, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 1, 2015, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1537/show/1518.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, July 1979 - August 1979
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date July 1979 - August 1979
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Texas
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 28 page periodical
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
File Name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Page 9
File Name femin_201109_552ai.jpg
Transcript "The city council and the Chamber of Commerce don't want any minority on council they can't control. This just scares the hell out of the real estate industry in this town." "This issue is not a minority issue, it's a responsive government issue," says L.A. "Al" Greene Jr. Greene is the attorney in charge of court battles being waged by more than a dozen plaintiffs against the present system. The challengers include the Greater Houston Civic Council, Inc.; the Harris County Council of Organizations, a black coalition; the Harris County Women's Political Caucus; U.S. Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Houston); Anthony Hall, a black former state representative and congressional candidate; state Rep. Ben Reyes (D-Houston), a Mexican-American; County Commissioner Tom Bass; state Rep. Herman Lauhoff (D-Houston); Mike Noblet, Bass' former aide and state representative candidate; Joe Pentony, former state representative and county judge candidate; Don Horn, Texas leader of the AFL-CIO; Lawrence Pope, a defeated black candidate for city council; the Political Alliance of Spanish-speaking Organizations, and Moses LeRoy, an HCCO leader. The defendants are the city council members and former Mayor Fred Hofheinz, who was in office when the first of four federal law suits was filed in December 1973. Green's clients contend the present city council set-up is unconstitutional, that it discriminates against minorities. Under the present system, there are eight city council members. Three run at- large, five are required to live In the geographic districts they theoretically represent. But despite the residency requirement, every voter may vote in all eight council races. So the entire council really is an at-large body. The effect is that Houstonians live in the nation's largest city council district, both in terms of geography and population. Each Houston city council member has a constituency larger than that of 16 governors and 32 United States senators. The five districts which have been drawn here do more to confuse the electorate than promote neighborhood representation. "Many people think we already have a mixed system (that is, some at-large and some single-member districts)," Greene says. The unfairness of the scheme can easily be seen in District D, a predominantly black district in southern Houston. Incumbent Honier Ford, a white conservative, has failed several times to carry the area. At least once the district voted 80 percent for Lawrence Pope, a black. But with the support of west side whites and a bulging war chest, Ford has consistently been returned to City Hall to do the work of the downtown power establishment. The absence of single-member districts is not the only way the current set-up discriminates against minorities, though. Chandler Davidson, a Rice University social scientist and expert witness for single-member district advocates, says, "Houston has a full complement of anti-minority mechanisms. So it's a tough system." The city has a place voting system. In other words, candidates run for specific seats. Elections could be structured so that each voter would have eight votes, and the top eight vote-getters would be elected. It takes a little thought to see, but if a voter were to cast fewer than eight votes, he or she would in effect be casting negative votes for those not voted upon. This would help minority candidates, Davidson has shown in his 1972 book Biracial Politics: Conflict and Coalition in the Metropolitan South, which is about Houston. So the city doesn't have such a system. The city could hold elections with the rule that the candidate receiving the most votes for a position, even if it is a plurality and not a majority, would be elected. But this, too, would help minority candidates, Davidson says, so the city has run-offs. The city could allow parties to function in city politics. Since Democrats (not to mention some minor parties) are more likely to nominate minorities in primaries, the city charter mandates non-partisan elections. With Alice-In- Wonderland logic, the system bans a key element of politics from elections. Since 1955, when the present system was adopted, 96 city council seats have been filled by election. White, Anglo- Saxon males have won 92 times. No Mexican-American has ever won. No woman has ever won. Ten times, blacks or Mexican-Americans have carried their districts, frequently by 2-1 or 3-1 margins, but have lost in city-wide voting. The only minority candidate ever to win a seat is Judson Robinson Jr., a black millionaire real estate broker. He won the District B spot in 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1977. Significantly, he failed to make the run-off for the inner-city congressional district once held by Barbara Jordan and now held by Mickey Leland. "I think there is ample evidence the council and the Chamber of Commerce (headed by former Mayor Louie Welch) don't want any minority on council they can't control," Davidson says. "This just scares the hell out of the real estate industry in this town." Harris County's legislative delegation was elected under an at-large, place voting system until federal court-ordered re- districting. Under that scheme, even such a consummate black politician as Jordan was unable to win a seat in 1962 and 1964. Houston Independent School District created single-member districts for trustees when the legislature told it to in 1974. But despite repeated efforts single- member district advocates have been unable to get a similar mandate from Austin for city elections. While virtually the whole deck is stacked against Houston's minorities in city elections, Green's clients decided to concentrate on the most repugnant element, the at-large system. In 1973, they filed suit in federal court to overturn the system in favor of single-member districts. With approximately 40 percent of the city's population black or Hispanic, city officials cannot deny minorities have been underrepresented on council. So the city presented witnesses who testified the election system was not the reason minorities are underrepresented. Susan A. MacManus, a University of Houston political scientist, testified the inequality is due to "socio-economic factors," such as lower education and income levels among minorities. She said her city-financed study of 243 large American cities shows minorities are underrepresented regardless of council election plans. After being paid at least $4,700 for her research and testimony, MacManus took the same data and wrote a scholarly article with Delbert Taebel of the University of Texas at Arlington drawing opposite conclusions, however. After Davidson howled in the academic community, MacManus removed her name from the article and wrote a new one with conclusions in line with her court statements. The two articles are scheduled to be published side-by-side in the fall issue of the Austin-based Social Science Quarterly. Another expert witness for the city, political scientist George An tunes, is on record outside the courtroom 180 degrees opposite his testimony. With a colleague, Antunes wrote in a chapter of The New Urban Politics, "In larger communities at-large council elections dilute minority representation." Antunes says he was merely summarizing the views of most scholars, not expressing his own. No such caveat is made in the book, however. Greene was not allowed to introduce Antunes' written statements, made before the trial, in court. Even the plaintiffs concede under- representation on council does not by itself prove the city's government has been unresponsive to minorities. The city's attorneys pointed to the city-wide election of Mexican-American Leonel Castillo as controller and said minorities' voice in every council contest has insured city services are equitably distributed. They argued single-member districts would polarize the council and still not give minorities control, since they could not win a majority of the seats. Davidson disagrees. Minority "hell-raisers" could at least publicize minority issues and reveal what goes on in closed-door council meetings, he says. The plaintiffs made their case for inequitable distribution of city services largely in four areas: police brutality, municipal employment, Spanish language services and representation on boards and commissions. The city's response to each was weak at best. The city acknowledged police brutality is "a source of continuing frustration for the minority community" but said a civilian review commission is prohibited by state law. It said "nothing but improvement" has been made recently in discriminatory municipal employment but added the problem "cannot be solved overnight." Of the problem of few Spanish language services, the city merely said it is "working toward its resolution." More non-Houstonians have been appointed to city panels than have minorities, Greene notes, adding, "Most blacks are appointed to the arts board and things like that." The city merely contends there is no evidence minorities have HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH JULY/AUGUST 1979