Eleanor Tinsley, councilwoman-elect in front of 8th floor council offices in City Hall.
You are where you sit
BY MARIANITA PADDOCK
'The people who write those best sellers
about power and status in organizations
would have a field day watching the
Houston City Council begin its new life
as a 9-5 system." That's what Susan
Wright, host for Friday Local on Channel 8, had to say about city council's
first meeting for 1980. Indeed, last
month's debate over Councilwoman
Eleanor Tinsley's office space would fit
perfectly into Jane Trahey's Women &
Power. You are where you sit, says
Last November, Tinsley defeated 20-
year incumbent Frank Mann for the at-
large position two seat. Tinsley assumed
that she would occupy Mann's office,
on the eighth floor.
Tinsley and the other councilmem-
bers were sworn in on January 2. At
the meeting that day, she proposed that
the five at-large councilmembers as well
as the two senior district members,
remain on the eighth floor. The seven
remaining district councilmembers would
move in on the ninth floor. Tinsley felt
that there were several advantages to this
Marianita Paddock is a free-lance writer,
and a journalism graduate from Texas
A&M University. She works for a local
company in public relations.
kind of move.
"It seemed to me that to put seven
people on each of two floors would give
the at-large members the protocol rights
of running a city-wide race, because they
all have the same constituency. It protected the seniority rights of the two remaining district councilmen, Larry McKaskle
and Frank Mancuso, who would stay
where they were or move to another
office on that floor."
Originally, Tinsley had started a
petition supporting her stand for an
eighth floor office. Lance Lalor, District C councilmember, was the first
one to sign it. So did four other members, said Tinsley. She also had verbal
support from Anthony Hall and Christ-
in Hartung. She had seven votes and needed one more, at which point she said,
"I didn't pursue the petition any further."
A week later (January 9), the proposal was defeated 9-6, which included
Mayor McConn's vote against her. Tinsley
is now the only at-large member on the
Before the council meeting where her
proposal was defeated, Tinsley had
spoken with Mayor McConn. At that time
he stated that he supported her position.
The next day, McConn told Tinsley
that he couldn't vote on the issue.
"He had had a lot of pressure from the
old council and said that he was going to
'unmeddle' in council business," Tinsley
said. "I talked to him two or three times
about it and the last thing he said was
'I'm going to the bathroom when it
comes up. I'm not going to vote.' "
Tinsley wasn't totally surprised when
her proposal was defeated. She was surprised at the count—9-6.
"I thought I would lose, but with seven
votes," she said. "I thought it would be
a 7-7 tie with the mayor walking out."
The mayor, the six incumbents and
new councilmembers Lalor and John
Goodner all voted against her proposal.
However, Ben Reyes, councilmember,
District I, said voting for Tinsley's proposal was the "only fair and practical
thing to do. Most of the city council
people were in at-large positions, and
certainly there is a difference between
at-large and district, and I felt she should
be there (eighth floor)," he added.
When Lalor was asked why he signed
the petition and then voted against
the proposal, he said, "I told her that
although I disagreed with the petition,
I'd be glad to sign it and help her get an
eighth floor office . . .
"Subsequently I told her I'd be glad
to have her on the eighth floor, but I
thought both the petition and the motion
she made in council were both dead
wrong and I wouldn't support them.
"Lalor took issue with Tinsley's coun
cil motion for two reasons. "It said that
all the at-large councilmen (sic) are different from the district councilmen (sic)
and, therefore, ought to be officed on the
same floor. Second, we should turn this
all over to the mayor and have him choose.
"I don't believe the at-large people or
Eleanor Tinsley are better than everybody
else and deserve special treatment," said
"My point from the beginning," said
Tinsley, "was that a normal procedure
for any governmental unit is for all of
those who represent the same area to
be housed together." (A fire marshal
found in December that the eighth
floor could safely house only six offices-
there are six incumbents. The ninth floor
was not surveyed. "Politics," said Tins-
Although her proposal was defeated,
Tinsley feels she won in other ways.
"Standing up on an issue that didn't
affect the public said something to a lot
of people—to fellow councilmen (sic)
and to other women who've been through
similar experiences of discrimination and
to many minorities.
"Minorities have experienced paying
the same fare and yet being told to go
to the back of the bus. And that's essentially what happened to me because
I paid the fare of running at-large and was
told to go upstairs."
Battering is a household word
BY SANDY LONG
Domestic violence has come of age as an
issue. That was the message at a conference on "Family Violence: Action for the
'80's" sponsored by the Houston Area
Women's Center in January. About 250
workers in the field from a five-state region gathered to hear speakers and attend
workshops during the conference.
"Studying domestic violence is an evolutionary process but we're moving at
revolutionary speed," declared Kathy
Fojtik, executive director of the technical
assistance centers on family violence.
"One year ago there were about half a
dozen shelters for abused women. Today
there are 392."
"We've come a long way in our willingness to confront the problem of family
violence," said Barbara Star, an associate
professor of social work at the University
of Southern California. "Ten years ago it
wasn't an issue at all. We now recognize
that the violence of the '80's will include
child abuse, spouse abuse, and sexual
abuse as well as parent battering by teenage children and 'granny bashing' where
adults batter their elderly parents.
"There's usually an inappropriate role
structure within the violent family. Children ofien gain power when they are too
young to handle it. It is a matter of the
weak wielding power over the weaker.
And the children who grow up in violent
families repeat the cycle." Experts estimate that 70 percent of batterers experienced abuse as a child or saw their parents abuse one another.
Diane Hamlin of the Center for Women's Policy Studies said that a recent
study in Washington, D.C., showed that
much arson is the result of domestic violence. "Everybody has always thought
that insurance was a prime motivating
force behind arson," said Hamlin. "Now
Sandy Long works with the Houston Area Women's Center.
it looks like a lot of it is persons getting
even with their families.
Destruction of property and pets has
come to be one of the definitions of battering. The more common definitions are
physical assault, sexual violence, and
According to Hamlin, battering does
not include the broad and vague area of
emotional abuse. "When we talk about
psychological battering we're talking
about brainwashing, the limiting of physical movement, and the interruption of
sleeping and eating patterns. Women in
shelters often come in suffering from
sleep deprivation and malnourishment.
Also, over half the women have been victims of sexual violence.
"Our goal must be singular—to stop
the violence," said Hamlin. "First we
must focus on the violence rather than
trying to get batterers to be good employees or nice guys.
"Our society provides a lot of socialization and rewards for men's reaction to
violence. We must stop complacency toward the issue. Batterers must be made to
realize that they are responsible for their
Nikki Van Hightower, executive director of the Houston Area Women's Center,
said that what is needed is no less than a
change in this society's economic, social
and political ideology.
There's this attitude that a man has a
right to beat his wife if she nags him. It's
a license being issued to males at birth. In
order for a change to take place, we must
alter our ideas of masculinity and femininity."
All the experts seemed to agree that
the next step in domestic violence work
must be in counseling and therapy for the
Hamlin cautioned, though, that there
is an increased potential for violence
when work is started with batterers. The