Another long battle comes to an end.
A Dallas federal judge has directed Farmers Branch to implement single-member City Council districts after the U.S. Justice Department signed off on the city’s proposed map.
The move could set the stage for a fiery May 11 election in which the outcome may provide the suburb of 29,000 residents with its first Hispanic council member.
Since 2006, Farmers Branch has spent about $6 million in legal fees defending a stymied ordinance barring illegal immigrants from rental housing. Ultimately, it led 10 Hispanic residents to sue the city under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, alleging the city’s at-large council election system discriminated against Hispanics.
The decision by Judge Sidney Fitzwater follows his ruling that the city violated the Voting Rights Act and had to develop a remedy. Fitzwater is a Republican appointee and the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Texas’ Northern District.
“It is hard to believe we are still fighting this fight,” said Elizabeth Villafranca, a former City Council candidate and whose election loss was dissected during the three-day trial. “The good thing that came out of all this is how under-represented we are in the city.”
Alfonso Baladez, a 67-year-old plaintiff in the case, testified that he had given up voting because his candidate never got elected.
On Friday, Baladez said: “I just wanted to be listened to. Now I can go to my district councilperson. There are things that are just not right.”
Under the new single-member map, District 1 on the city’s western side will have a majority of Hispanic U.S. citizens of voting age.
The last update I had on this was from 2010. This was the second such lawsuit filed to implement single member districts in Farmers Branch; an earlier one had been dismissed because the the judge ruled that the plaintiffs could not draw a single member district that would elect a Hispanic candidate. I guess we’ll know for sure in a few months. Ana Reyes, who works for state Rep. Rafael Anchía, has said she intends to run in the new district. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, the FB City Council still has to approve the plan, which is scheduled for discussion on February 19, and there is still the possibility of an appeal. It’s not the end quite yet, but you can see it from here.