We want to change the system, which was basically created for the rich of this city,” says Marvin Crenshaw. Crenshaw and Roy Williams, two black Dallas leaders, filed a lawsuit against the city last May, seeking to change the way the city council is elected. Currently, eight councilmembers are elected from single-member districts, and three, including the mayor, are elected at-large from the city as a whole. Williams and Cren-shaw want all eleven members elected from single-member districts, with the mayor chosen by the councilmembers.

Rather than aiming at the city’s charter, which was amended in 1975 to institute the current 8-3 setup. Crenshaw and Williams are taking a different tack. “We feel that [the city] is in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” says Williams. The 1965 Voting Rights Act says that voting districts cannot be drawn in such a manner as to discriminate against any class of people. Elizabeth Julian, executive director of Legal Services of North Texas and the lawyer on this case, says it is obvious that two black council members out of eleven, as we have now, does not fairly represent a city whose population is almost a third black.

Williams and Crenshaw contend that predominantly white North Dallas is over-represented on the council. The three at-large positions are held by Jerry Rucker. Al Gonzalez, and mayor Annette Strauss. All live in District 4, which is represented by Jerry Bartos; Max Wells represents District 3, the other North Dallas district. “Districts 3 and 4 have five votes coming into the council chamber to begin with, so all they have to do is pick up another vote [to get a majority] and they can control the council. We want to change that,” says Crenshaw. Williams says, “The overall theme should be ’we the people,’ but in Dallas it has been ’we the developers” and ’we the establishment.’”

But why are the two pressing the issue now, when the 1990 census is almost certain to force redistricting to reflect new population distribution figures’? “If we didn’t take it to the city now,” says Crenshaw, “then when the 1990 census comes, the rulers and leaders will have designed a plan that suits them, and we’ll be left in the same place as we are now. The only way we can get anything done is to take the city of Dallas screaming and kicking into court.”


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