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Houston Breakthrough 1979-07 - 1979-08
Page 10
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Houston Breakthrough 1979-07 - 1979-08 - Page 10. July 1979 - August 1979. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. July 12, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1537/show/1519.

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 1979-07 - 1979-08 - Page 10. 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/1519

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 1979-07 - 1979-08 - Page 10, July 1979 - August 1979, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed July 12, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1537/show/1519.

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 1979-07 - 1979-08
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
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location 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 the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Page 10
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
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 the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_552aj.jpg
Transcript The city's expert witnesses made the near-legendary assertion that streets are only "psychologically rougher" in Houston's ghettos and barrios than in River Oaks. been excluded due solely to racial considerations. It was during five weeks of testimony on city services that the city's expert witnesses made the near-legendary assertion that streets are only "psychologically rougher" in Houston's ghettos and barrios than in River Oaks. The downtown establishment apparently thought it could squelch the growing discontent with the council election set-up in 1975 with a non-binding referendum on the panel's make-up. To force the electorate to choose between the two extremes, it offered voters only two alternatives—all at-large and all single- member. "It came out a cigar that exploded right in their faces," Davidson says. Single-member got 53 percent, at-large 47 percent. So the city argued in court the turnout was too low to be significant. Davidson has found that is the only instance in six straw votes since World War II in which the city did not subsequently go along with "the will of the people." It was not the first time the city had been told to change its council system, either. A "blue-ribbon" citizens' commission studied the matter in the 1960s and recommended the city adopt a mixed plan. Ironically, the present system was put into effect with the support of minorities. In 1955, the city still had the ward system, though the wards were gerrymandered in such a way that blacks didn't even consider running for city council. Roy Hofheinz, Fred's father, was mayor, and he had angered the conservative establishment in many ways. He had done such outrageous things as forcing the desegregation of country clubs and paving streets in black parts of town. So the powers-that-be got an election set on 18 charter changes designed to clip his wings. Hofheinz retaliated against the city council with Amendment 19, which abolished the ward system, established the present at-large system and led to the defeat of some of his foes at the hands of a Hofheinz slate. While Hofheinz could not have instituted the system without the support of blacks, "it didn't occur to them how bad it would be down the road," Davidson said. There had been no involved discussion of council make-up; the plan was seen merely as a stratagem to help Hofheinz. Now, single member district foes raise the specter of a return to the era of narrow-minded, big-city ward heelers. Reform advocates respond that single- member districts would not give the council new, administrative powers; it would only force council members to be more responsive with the powers they already have. Remarkably. the single-member district suit, tried in 1976, resulted in a victory for the status quo. Perhaps the aging Judge Allen B. Hannay was more impressed by the race of the lawyers than by the evidence. Then-City Attorney Otis King, a black, was in charge for the city. Greene is white. The suit is currently on appeal to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It is the busiest appeals panel in the nation and has not announced when it will rule. In 1975, largely through the efforts of then-Congress woman Jordan, Congress amended the Voting Rights Act of 1965, extending its coverage of southern states to Texas and giving single-member district proponents new hope. The law requires Justice Department "pre-clear- ance" of any change in voting "standards, practices or procedures" by any political entity in the state. Greene's clients eventually filed three more law suits, two of which are still pending, alleging VRA violations. When the city annexed 17 parcels of land and some 140,000 new citizens in 1977 and 1978, including mostly white, middle-class suburbs of Alief and Clear Lake City, the Justice Department had the city over a barrel. The feds objected to 14 of the additions, saying they diluted minority voting strength. That probably wasn't the reason the downtown establishment wanted the new territory, just a happy coincidence. King testified last December that the city had spent $100,000 in its legal effort against single-member districts on just the annexation matter. A spokeswoman for City Controller Kathy Whitmire's office said it would be impossible to determine the total costs. But Greene estimates the tab has already topped $300,000. Other significant costs include hiring the Dallas law firm of Bob Strauss (of Jimmy Carter's inner circle) to have a Mexican-American associate represent the city in Washington. City officials could have elected to fight Justice in U.S. District Court in Washington. The cost of transporting witnesses to the nation's capital would have severely drained the finances of single-member district advocates here. Even though such suits are rarely success ful, it would have held reformers at bay for years. But the city sorely wants to hold a $400 million capital improvements bond election. And Justice will allow no city elections to be held until the other matter is resolved. Although Mayor Jim McConn has blasted the "nameless, faceless bureaucrats" for interference, one councilman has admitted the city met its comeuppance in not getting Justice's pre-clear- ance of the annexations. "When you break the. law, you're subject to all sorts of things. And we broke the law," Councilman Louis Macey told reporters, with unusual candor. The Justice Department said the situation could be righted if Houston were to change its council plan to include some single-member districts. So this July, city council started listening to citizen groups about new council plans to put on an August 11 ballot. A veritable army of interest groups marched before council with a wide variety of plans. But the groups realized that if they were to get a shot at anything like an acceptable plan, they would have to rally behind one. More than 30 groups formed a coalition to back the plan presented by Mary Schlett, chair of the Harris County Democrats, a group of liberal Democrats. It called for 16 single-member districts and four at-large seats, plus the mayor, elected at large, who has a tie-breaker vote on council. George Brown, the godfather of the downtown establishment and the Brown of Brown & Root, Inc., also appeared before council to urge the present system of no single-member districts and eight at- large seats be retained. McConn first suggested a five-five plan, but that was nixed immediately by the Justice Department. The single-member coalition met with City Attorney Robert Collie to work out a compromise. The coalition was willing to accept a 14-4 plan. The plan council finally approved putting on the ballot calls for nine single- member districts and five at-large seats. It is a plan no group had suggested publicly. The council also voted to put a zero-eight plan, a very slight modification of the present system, on the ballot. Coalition leader state Rep. Ben Reyes charges Collie negotiated in bad faith and did not even take the 14-4 plan back to council. Collie denies the charge. The council had originally hoped to get the bond issue on the ballot, too. But Reyes and Moses LeRoy, a black community leader, went to Washington and persuaded the Justice Department it would be giving up its leverage over the council were the bond issue to pass. The council did vote to put seven other proposed charter changes on the ballot next month. Two were property tax limitation proposals. The other five, the council claimed, were innocuous "housekeeping" matters. But while such items as establishing a vice mayor pro tern post seemed harmless on the surface, there was a rub. The state constitution provides that cities may not amend their charters in any way for at least two years after a change is approved. So if no new council make-up plans passed but any one of the "housekeeping" proposals were approved, single-member proponents would be stymied by state law for two years. The Justice Department apparently recognized this and ruled that Houston may vote only on the nine-five plan in August. As a conciliatory gesture to city officials, Justice offered to help the city go to court to void the two-year wait requirement in this special case. But the city, anxious to have Justice seen as "the bad guys," so far has said only that such a legal effort would fail. The Justice Department did not, however, approve the nine-five plan itself. Federal officials indicated they probably would but said it would depend on how the district lines are drawn. A three-judge federal panel here upheld Justice. The city council's nine-five "compromise" has infuriated the single-member coalition. They say it is simply not good enough, the districts are too big (189,000 people each, using a 1.7 million estimate for the city's population) to allow neighborhood campaigns and give candidates without funds for media campaigns much of a chance. Each district would be larger than the population of Shreveport, Louisiana. " Virtually every spokesperson for the groups in the coalition has come out against nine-five. They vow to defeat it at the polls and then work to get 20,000 signatures to force another charter change referendum-on a more acceptable plan. The prospects for the coalition's success are murky, though. The issue is complicated, and Houston's big media have done a poor job of explaining it. Neither daily newspaper has taken time to put the matter in perspective, giving a historical review of the issue. They have stuck to blow-by-blow coverage of the political and legal maneuvers. One point city officials have harped on, both in and out of court, is that there has been no "groundswell" of public opinion HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH 10 JULY/AUGUST 1979