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Archive for January 26th, 2022

H-Town Latinos 

This was in the Chron a couple of days ago: 

The lack of Latinos on the City Council undermines the legitimacy of Houston’s government, experts say, and is something that a prominent Hispanic organization is pushing to change with a lawsuit and ballot proposition. 

The League of United Latin American Citizens, one of the largest Hispanic civil rights organizations in the country, is tackling what they characterize as a gross underrepresentation of Latinos in one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. by proposing that the five at-large positions on council elected citywide be replaced with four seats in heavily Hispanic districts. 

Currently, just one Hispanic — Robert Gallegos — holds a seat on the 16-member body. By contrast, 45 percent of Houston residents are Hispanic. 

“The most serious threat to the legitimacy of Houston city government is this idea that you can have half of the population of the city represented by 6 percent of the council,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. “Imagine if we flipped things around and there’s only one African American on the Houston City Council, or there’s only one Anglo, or there’s only one woman … It would be seen as a national travesty of democracy; it would be the subject of constant outcry.” 

Here is the entire read: Latino leaders plan lawsuit to change ‘gross’ underrepresentation in Houston City Council (houstonchronicle.com). 

Off the Kuff had a thoughtful take today on the issue. Here is from Charles: 

There’s a lot to say here, and I’ll try to get to the main points, but let me start by saying it’s a little more complex than what Garcia and Lira are arguing. There are multiple districts that have are at least plurality Latino – H, J, F, and A. H, currently held by CM Karla Cisneros, had reliably elected Latinos before Cisneros and likely will again; none of the others have elected Latinos. There is of course a big difference between “population”, “voting-age population” and “citizen voting-age population”, and that’s before we take into account voter registration and who generally turns out to vote in our odd-year elections, where 20% turnout is on the higher end. We could elect more Latinos with the map we have now, at least in theory. It very much hasn’t worked out that way in practice, and I doubt you’d find anyone who would argue that the current map is conducive to having more than two Latinos get elected from the current districts. 

It’s also true that Latinos have been shut out from the At Large seats since the days of Orlando Sanchez and Gracie Saenz twenty years ago. We also haven’t had a lot of strong Latino contenders for At Large seats lately. In 2015, no Latinos ran for At Large #3 or #5, and the only one in At Large #1 was perennial candidate James Partsch-Galvan. There were Latinos in all the At Large races in 2019, but none of them raised any money. That’s what Garcia and Lira are saying, and others have said it before them, but it just doesn’t take as much money to run a credible At Large campaign as it does to run for Mayor. Mayoral candidates need well over a million bucks, but the big money candidates for At Large raise in the $200-400K range. Not nothing, but not a huge pile of money either. It’s a bit of a vicious circle – people who might want to run are discouraged because it’s hard for them to raise money and the recent record of citywide Latino candidates is brutal, which leads to a paucity of such candidates for anyone to support. 

I can’t leave this point without bringing up, once again, the 2007 At Large #5 runoff, in which Jolanda Jones defeated Joe Trevino in a race where about 25K total votes were cast. Jones had run citywide before (in At Large #3) and was better known, and the other runoffs on the ballot were City Council District D and HISD District II, both of which favored Jones’ candidacy. Trevino was a longshot no matter how you looked at it, but still. This was the clearest shot to get a Latino elected citywide, and he got bupkus in terms of financial support, including from the folks who had been threatening to sue to force City Council redistricting prior to the 2010 Census. Public support of campaigns and candidates is a complicated and nuanced thing that is more often solicited than given, I get that. I’m just saying, none of the folks who were lamenting the lack of Latino representation on Houston City Council were moved to write Joe Trevino a $100 check. Make of that what you will. 

(There was also the Michael Kubosh-Roy Morales runoff of 2013. The politics of that one are different, for obvious reasons. I went back and looked, and Roy Morales actually raised about $50K for that runoff, which isn’t too shabby. There were only a couple of Latino names among his donors, though. Again, make of that what you will.) 

Moving on. I have generally been supportive of having the hybrid district/At Large Council that we have. At least if you have a sub-par Council person in your district, you still have five At Large members you can turn to for support if you need it, and I think there’s value in having people who need to have a broader perspective. That said, I’d bet that most of the At Large members we have had over the past 20 or so years have come from a limited geographical distribution – this was very much the problem with Austin’s at large system, where nearly everyone on their Council came from the same part of town – and let’s just say that some of our At Large members are better than others and leave it at that. All in all, I don’t think it would be a great loss to change to an all-district system, and I would be inclined to support it if and when it comes to a vote. I’d like to see the proposal first – there are, as we well know, good and not-so-good ways to draw maps – but as a concept, I support it. 

Here is all of Charles: Is it time to ditch At Large seats on Houston City Council? – Off the Kuff. 

Nobody wants to hear Commentary’s take on this. What do I know? Honestly, though, I do think I can address this with a bit of authority. Aw, shucks, with the most authority. 

I think if there is going to be a lawsuit filed, file it against the H-Town Latino community. Since the days of Gracie Saenz and Orlando Sanchez serving as at-large council members, the Latino community has not really gotten serious about getting behind an at-large Latino or Latina candidate. Not once. 

In 2013, former Houston Professional Firefighter union honcho Roland Chavez made a bid for an at-large seat and ended up in fifth place. He did not get much support from Latino leadership. 

It would be nice for someone to step forward and say they will be the Latino candidate running at-large and line-up the Latino leadership, who can then go to other communities and ask for support.  

Heck, it is time for a Latino or Latina to step forward and start running for the open City Controller position. Nobody is going to hand us anything.   

I would like to go to an all-single member district system. I will sign the position. The voters will not approve. African Americans have had success with the at-large system.  Why should they give it up. 

Latinos just need to put forward an effort. We have not in over twenty years. 

Mary Nan Huffman won last night’s H-Town City Council District G Special Election without a runoff. That’s impressive. 

Congrats to David Ortiz on getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Big Papi is deserving. I was watching the MLB Network yesterday when it was announced.  They talked about his postseason record. He has 17 postseason dingers. Not bad. Carlos Correa has 18 and Jose Altuve has 23. 

Big Papi had 541 career regular season dingers. 222 of them at Fenway. 2 at Minute Maid. 

I am not going to spend a lot of time on those that didn’t get in. Look, I am a fan with a lot of knowledge of the game. I am not a baseball writer who does this for a living. I will leave it at that. 

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