The Irving City Council plans to appeal last week’s federal court ruling that ordered the city to create single-member council districts before holding any more City Council elections. Mayor Herbert Gears said the city will also request that the order be stayed during the appeals process. If that motion were to be granted, the city could conceivably hold another at-large council election in May.
“We don’t believe we’ve done anything illegal,” Gears said.
The council met in executive session Wednesday afternoon to receive legal advice on last week’s ruling. The city has already spent more than $367,000 to defend the lawsuit, which was filed by resident Manuel Benavidez. Gears said the city does not want to incur needless legal costs, but does not agree with the judge’s ruling that the city’s at-large system violates the Federal Voting Rights Act.
“We think it’s very important to protect the integrity of our community,” Gears said.
But Gears also said the city plans to work with lawyers for Benavidez in developing a single-member district plan to present to the court by October.
Reaching a settlement is almost always the lower-cost option. The city of Irving can drag this out, and they may even prevail on appeal, but I would hope they think this isn’t something for which they should go to the mat. As noted here and in the previous story, there are some existing recommendations for single-member districts for Irving to consider. The good news is, they’re trying to work it out.
Even though the council is appealing U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis’ ruling, it is also working on two other fronts to bring single-member districts to Irving.
“We have known for some time that this in our city’s future,” Mayor Herbert Gears said.
The council continues to work on the possibility of placing the matter before voters on a November ballot. And leaders say they will work with Bill Brewer, an attorney for lawsuit plaintiff Manuel Benavidez, to present Solis with a proposed plan by an October deadline.
“The goal here is to come up with a system that best fits the rules of the Voting Rights Act, and that is a system that gives Hispanics an opportunity to elect somebody from their neighborhoods,” Brewer said.
One area where Irving and Brewer find common ground is the possibility of creating a hybrid electoral system of some single-member seats and some at-large seats. That’s the system several residents, leaders and former leaders prefer. And it’s one that other cities, such as Arlington and Grand Prairie, use.
“There’s obviously some ground for compromise if the City Council is willing to do it,” said former Mayor Joe Putnam, who sat on the latest charter review committee.
Sounds like they’re at least pointing in the right direction. I wish them luck in figuring it all out. Greg has more.