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Irving

Mayors to Abbott: Don’t mess with our cities

Good luck getting through.

Less than 24 hours after Gov. Greg Abbott blasted local government restrictions like tree ordinances as a threat to the “Texas brand,” city government leaders statewide are seeking a meeting with the Republican leader.

“We would like the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the role cities play in attracting jobs and investments to support the prosperity of the State of Texas,” a letter signed by 18 mayors, including Houston mayor Sylvester Turner to Abbott states.

[…]

The letter from the mayors makes clear that they fear the Texas Legislature is overreaching and doing too much harm to local governments.

“Harmful proposals such as revenue and spending caps, limiting annexation authority, and other measures preempting local development ordinances directly harm our ability to plan for future growth and continue to serve as the economic engines of Texas,” the letter states.

The mayors on the letter include those from Houston, Amarillo, Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Frisco, Galveston, Irving, Lubbock, McKinney, Plano, San Antonio, San Marcos, and Sugar Land.

You can see the letter here. You might note that some of the cities in question are Republican suburban kind of places. It’s not just us smug urbanites that would like to have our current level of autonomy left alone. I’m going to say the same thing to these Mayors that I’ve been saying to the business folk that have been working to defeat the bathroom bill, and that’s that they are going to have to follow up all these words with actions, because Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick don’t care what they have to say. If you’re not working to elect better leadership in 2018, which in this case means leadership that is not actively undermining and degrading Texas’ cities, then you’re part of the problem too, and your words have no meaning. The Current and the Press have more.

Family of Ahmed Mohamed files lawsuit against his former school

I’d sue, too.

Nearly one year after 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing a “suspicious-looking” homemade clock to class, his family has filed suit against his former Texas school district, the principal of the high school and the city of Irving.

The lawsuit filed Monday claims that Ahmed’s civil rights were violated in the incident that made the 9th grader go viral last September.

Accusations of racial and religious profiling fueled the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed. Even President Obama chimed in on Twitter, telling the boy: “We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

The charge — possession of a hoax bomb — was dropped, but MacArthur High School suspended Ahmed for three days.

Citing a pattern of disproportionate disciplinary actions for black students in the Irving Independent School District and a history of anti-Muslim sentiment in Irving, the lawsuit alleges that Ahmed was discriminated against based on his race and religion. It also claims his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was interrogated by police and principal Daniel Cummings for over an hour without the presence of his parents before he was arrested.

See here for some background, and here for a copy of the lawsuit. No question, Ahmed Mohamed was treated atrociously, and it’s well known that the Mayor of Irving is a raving Islam-basher of long standing. Lawsuits are a blunt instrument, but sometimes they’re the best way to get a message across. This is a message that the city of Irving needs to hear. The Observer, which highlights key aspects of the suit, has more.

Irving ISD sues AG’s office over Ahmed Mohamed

Oh, brother.

Ahmed Mohamed’s former school district has sued the Texas Attorney General — defying an order to reveal details of a federal investigation related to the Muslim teen’s arrest after bringing a homemade clock to school last year.

Dozens of Democratic U.S. Congress members called for a civil rights investigation of Irving officials last September, after Ahmed was handcuffed at MacArthur High for showing his teacher the clock.

The Department of Justice launched an investigation days later, sending Irving ISD a multi-page letter that outlined accusations of harassment and “discipline of students on the basis of race, religion and national origin.”

For months, Irving ISD has been handing over records to comply with the government’s investigation — even as it has resisted requests by The Dallas Morning News to see the letter that launched it.

Among other reasons for keeping the investigation’s details secret, the district has argued that it expects to be sued, citing a demand from Ahmed’s lawyer to pay millionsor face a civil rights trial.

But the Attorney General’s office rejected those concerns this month and orderedIrving ISD to make the investigation letter public.

Instead, on Thursday the school district took the rare step of suing the state’s highest law enforcement agency — setting up a trial that could take months to resolve.

Irving ISD argues that the Attorney General’s order “is inconsistent with previous rulings … and is simply contrary to the common law understanding,” but cites no examples or other cases to support the claim.

See here for the background. It’s not often that I say this, but I’m really rooting for the AG’s office to win this lawsuit. Way to cover yourselves in glory, Irving.

I stand with Ahmed

Jesus H. Christ on a cracker.

This is a travesty

Ahmed Mohamed — who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart — hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to MacArthur High on Monday.

Instead, the school phoned police about Ahmed’s circuit-stuffed pencil case.

So the 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and took a trip in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb — though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock.

In the meantime, Ahmed’s been suspended, his father is upset and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is once again eyeing claims of Islamophobia in Irving.

A box full of circuit boards sits at the foot of Ahmed’s small bed in central Irving. His door marks the border where the Mohamed family’s cramped but lavishly decorated house begins to look like the back room at RadioShack.

“Here in high school, none of the teachers know what I can do,” Ahmed said, fiddling with a cable while a soldering iron dangled from the shelf behind him.

He loved robotics club in middle school and was searching for a similar niche in his first few weeks of high school.

So he decided to do what he’s always done: He built something.

Ahmed’s clock was hardly his most elaborate creation. He said he threw it together in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday: a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”

All that happened on Tuesday. Ahmed was subsequently arrested, handcuffed, walked through the school in handcuffs – that’s the picture above – fingerprinted, and finally released, with the cops eventually admitting that it was a clock, as he had been saying all along. Ahmed is now an Internet celebrity, and another example of how public officials like Irving’s Mayor who pander to fear and hate in the name of “security” do far more damage than good. And yeah, race and religion was a factor. Shame on everyone involved in this debacle, and good on you, Ahmed Mohammed, for being a kid who likes to build things. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and don’t let the turkeys get you down. TPM, Think Progress, Daily Kos, Kevin Drum, Slate, Vox, Wonkblog, Gawker, Mic, the Current, the Trib, the Observer, and Juanita have more.

Lawsuit filed over Senate map

From Texas Redistricting:

[Monday] morning, two Texas voters filed a suit in federal court challenging the state senate map drawn by the Texas Legislature on the grounds that it violated the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment by using total population rather eligible voters to draw districts.

The plaintiffs in the case are backed by the Project for Fair Representation, which also helped back Shelby County’s challenge to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as well as efforts to overturn affirmative action policies at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Center’s press release announcing the new Texas suit can be found here.

More information here.

What’s at issue?

The plaintiffs argue that the current Texas senate map (Plan S172) must be redrawn using “eligible voters” rather than “total population” – the measure long used by the Texas Legislature – because the latter now results in districts with significantly differing numbers of voters.

By not using eligible voters, the plaintiffs say the Texas Legislature violated the “one-person, one vote” principle of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment by allowing some voters’ votes to count for more than those of others.

Why are there disparities?

In Texas, the major driver of disparities in the number of eligible voters is the high number of non-citizens in parts of the state – mainly its urban and suburban cores. For example, in places like Dallas and Houston, commonly accepted estimates are that around half of adult Hispanics are non-citizens.

Of course, disparities also can exist for any number of other reasons, including higher numbers of children under 18 in fast growing parts of the state or a larger number of people who are unable to vote because of felony convictions.

However, differing citizenship rates are, by far, the largest driver of disparities in the number of eligible voters.

[…]

How would drawing districts using “eligible voters” change the current map?

At present, Texas senate districts have a target population of 811,147 people.

If courts were to require maps to be drawn using some measure of eligible voters, the target size of districts also would change.

For example, although Texas has over 25 million people, its citizen voting age population in the most recent Census Bureau report was estimated to be just 15,583,540. Using CVAP to draw districts would mean that each district would have a CVAP target of 502,695.

That target population would require significant reworking of districts that presently have large Hispanic populations.

In the Houston area, for example, SD-13, represented by State Sen. Rodney Ellis, has a CVAP population of only 419,035, and SD-6, represented by State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, fares even worse with just 377,505 citizens of voting age. Likewise, in the Dallas area, SD-23, represented by State Sen. Royce West, has just 456,955.

Even with permitted deviations from the target population, these districts would need to add population, mostly likely by drawing from neighboring Anglo-dominated districts. Though those people might or might not be Anglo, the need to add large numbers of people mean the demographics and electoral performance of the districts could change materially. In fact, the need to add people might very well jeopardize the protected status that those districts currently enjoy under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

In other words, this could be a very big deal not only for Hispanics but also potentially African-Americans.

There could be practical impacts as well for legislators since urban districts would likely end up with far greater numbers of total people – who, although they might not be able to vote, still have need for constituent services – and be much larger physically as well.

Wasn’t there a similar case recently about the same issue?

Yes. In fact, it involved many of the same players.

In Lepak v. City of Irving, the lawyers in the Texas senate case – also backed by the Project for Fair Representation – represented Irving residents in arguing that the city’s new single-member council district map was unconstitutional because it had been drawn using total population rather than CVAP.

Both the district court and the Fifth Circuit ruled against the Irving plaintiffs, citing the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Chen v. City of Houston, which held that the question of whether to use total population or CVAP was a political question and thus not reviewable by courts.

The Irving plaintiffs sought to have the decision reviewed by the Supreme Court, but the high court declined last April to take the case.

However, the Texas senate case potentially represents another opportunity to have the Supreme Court take up the issue since any appeal would go directly to the Supreme Court as a matter of right.

More background on Lepak here.

There’s more at the link, but basically this is a nuisance action being brought by some professional grievance-mongers. It would serve them right not only to have the case dismissed with prejudice, but also to be assessed full court costs and attorneys’ fees for wasting everyone’s time. The Observer and Rick Hasen have more.

“One person, one vote” upheld

More accurately, a challenge to the constitutional doctrine of “one person, one vote” was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has rejected a conservative challenge to the common practice of counting everyone, not just U.S. citizens, when adjusting the size of voting districts across the nation.

Without comment, the justices let stand a redistricting rule that benefits urban areas like Los Angeles and Chicago that have a higher percentage of noncitizens as residents.

Since the 1960s, the court has said that election districts should be equal in size under the so-called one person, one vote rule. Under this rule, U.S. representatives, state legislators, city council members and county board members usually represent about the same number of people.

But the court had not ruled directly on whether these districts should be counted based on the number of persons who live there or on the number of citizens who are eligible to vote.

A conservative group called the Project on Fair Representation has led the challenge to the Voting Rights Act in a case from Alabama. Its lawyers filed a separate appeal in a Texas case that urged the justices to revisit the one person, one vote rule and say that only eligible voters should be counted.

Their lawyers argued that because of “changing immigration patterns,” the standard method of counting all residents shifts political power “away from rural communities to urban centers with high concentrations of residents who are ineligible to vote.”

The case arose from an appeal by the city of Irving to a federal court ruling ordering them to use single-member Council districts, which would include the creation of a Latino opportunity district. The usual suspects got involved from there to assist the city in its appeal, but they lost every step of the way. As Texas Redistricting and the Constitutional Accountability Center wrote before SCOTUS announced its decision to not hear the appeal, no court has ever accepted the Project on Fair Representation’s argument, as the wording of the 14th Amendment – “equal representation for equal numbers of people” – is quite plain and has always been understood to include people who can’t vote, which at the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment included women. SCOTUSBlog has more.

Another setback for DART

More bad news from Dallas.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit can’t afford to build light-rail service to D/FW International Airport by 2013 as it has long said it would, the agency’s chief financial officer said Tuesday.

The news comes as a sharp reversal, but CFO David Leininger said the only way the project can be built in the near future will be if new revenues can be found, either through a new tax or, more likely but still uncertain, a federal grant that would cover the approximately $275 million cost of the final leg of the Orange Line.

“We are not abandoning these projects by any means, but there simply isn’t room for them in your current plan,” he told board members.

[…]

Irving has counted on the line to anchor more than $4 billion in planned developments near rail stations. That includes a $385 million convention and entertainment complex in the Las Colinas Urban Center. The city is shouldering the lion’s share of those construction costs.

That’s on top of the previous announcements about projects being delayed or discontinued. Part of the problem, as I understand it, is that the pool of federal grant money that gave Metro funding for the North and Southeast lines is all used up. Metro got the last two available grants for that. Until there are more funds like that available from the federal government, projects like that and like the University line will at the very least experience some uncertainty. It’s high time Congress took action on this. Alternately, as the DMN editorializes, the Lege can provide funds for regional transportation projects. This is worth doing, and if DART can’t do it by itself, it should get help.

Three more election tidbits

Tidbit #1: The city of Irving had its first election with its court-ordered single member Council districts.

Voters ousted one sitting council member and sent another into a runoff election. They also put two minorities on what has been an all-white council and rejected three out of four proposed city charter amendments.

Roy Santoscoy, who is Hispanic, beat sitting council member Tom Spink for the open at-large District 2 seat. Mike Gallaway, who is black, handily beat Trini C. Gonzalez, who is Hispanic, in the single-member District 1 race.

[…]

Irving is one of the most diverse cities in North Texas. About 43 percent of its population is Hispanic. During the voting rights trial, attorneys for plaintiff Manuel Benavidez used the loss of previous Hispanic candidates as evidence that single-member districts were needed to give Hispanics representation on the council.

Ironically, the Hispanic candidate lost in single-member District 1 and a Hispanic political newcomer won the only at-large race. Gallaway, who won the District 1 seat, is a 45-year-old senior inventory planner and owns a south Irving boutique with his wife. Santoscoy, who won the District 2 seat, is a former planning and zoning commissioner and owns a pawn shop on Irving Boulevard.

However the City Council got to be more diverse, the point is that it did. That’s a good thing.

Tidbit #2: The Republican candidate who lost the GOP primary runoff to replace retiring State Rep. Brian McCall, defeated the runoff winner in a special election to fill out the remainder of McCall’s term.

Mabrie Jackson, who pulled out of the race for state Rep. Brian McCall’s unexpired term, beat Van Taylor in Saturday’s special election, winning 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent, according to Collin County’s election results.

That’s a little awkward.

[…]

Turnout was lower in the special than in the runoff or the primary, probably because both candidates were campaigning. And they weren’t campaigning this time because … it’s over. Jackson pulled out of the special election. The Secretary of State named Taylor the only candidate and therefore the winner, calling the result and ending the race. And Collin County let it tail out, counting votes in an already decided election where no one asked for support.

So…does that mean the election didn’t really happen? I’m a little confused here.

Tidbit #3: Juanita summarizes the election results from Fort Bend County as only she can. Check it out.

This implosion is brought to you by…

Only in Dallas

Texas Stadium will come down this spring in a “Cheddar Explosion.”

That’s the name that Kraft Foods has given to its promotional campaign for the implosion of the iconic structure.

In its last act of 2009, the Irving City Council on Thursday unanimously approved Kraft Foods as the official sponsor for the demolition.

“It’s a good deal for us and a good deal for them,” council member Rose Cannaday said during the 15-minute special meeting.

As part of the deal, Kraft will pay Irving a $75,000 sponsorship fee prior to the demolition for charities selected by the city. The company will also provide $75,000 worth of Kraft products for local charities of its choice.

Next week, Kraft will launch a national essay contest for children as part of its promotional campaign, said Maura Gast, executive director of the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau. The winner will get to trigger the detonation at the public demolition.

Not a bad idea, actually. Though if you really wanted to maximize profits on this, I’d have gone with an auction for the right to push the button. The winning bid might have been in seven figures. Perhaps we ought to keep this in mind if we ever do demolish the Astrodome.

Irving’s sign ordinance

Here’s an interesting story about the experience the city of Irving has had with its new ordinance that restricted signage by businesses.

Strict new rules regarding business signs in Irving were enacted to literally remake the city’s image. The goal is to eliminate what many officials and residents say are cluttered thoroughfares and muddled shopping centers.

Instead, business owners say, the rules are either discouraging people from opening up shop or encouraging them to skirt the rules and undermine the city’s efforts.

And city officials, sometimes accused of letting aging commercial areas turn into eyesores, now face criticism from business owners who say the city is going too far in attempts to bring older areas up to newer standards.

I don’t know how their ordinance differs from ours, but given that Irving was cited by the Quality of Life Coalition as a competitor city to be emulated in this regard, I thought it was worth mentioning. Any thoughts on this?

Farmers Branch single member Council district lawsuit appealed to SCOTUS

A lawsuit on behalf of three Hispanic plaintiffs in Farmers Branch to force the creation of single-member City Council districts, which was filed last April and dismissed in November, will be appealed to the Supreme Court after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their argument.

Valentine Reyes, Irene Gonzalez and Gary F. Garcia alleged the at-large City Council system in Farmers Branch diluted minority votes. They wanted to create single-member districts, in which a council member is elected to represent a specific section of the city.

Their attorneys argued before a federal court in Dallas that Hispanic citizens of voting age would form a majority of the voters in one of the proposed districts. On appeal, they contended that citizenship wasn’t a requirement in showing Latinos of voting age would make up the majority in the proposed district.

A three-judge panel at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument. In a ruling Tuesday, the New Orleans-based panel insisted that the number of minorities of voting age in a proposed district must be citizens and needed to account for a majority of the total population of the district’s voting-age citizens.

“That’s really a change of how voting rights law has been interpreted in the past and would make a very bad precedent if it was adopted,” Garcia said.

Hmm. I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that the Census counts state prison inmates as residents of whatever county the prison happens to be in, and that this is used for the apportionment of legislative and Congressional districts, even though these prisoners may not have otherwise lived in that county and certainly can’t vote there. As such, I don’t buy the Court’s ruling – it strikes me as inconsistent with other established practices. Be that as it may, I would not hold out any hope for the Supreme Court to do anything about it. Not this Court, anyway.

It’s ironic that this ruling comes down at the same time as the final touches are being put on the court ruling that required the city of Irving to create single member Council districts. Makes you wonder why one city is not like the other.

On a side note, the nature of Farmers Branch’s City Council may not be changing, but that doesn’t mean that its politics are the same as it ever was. Consider this recent exchange in a debate over allowing expanded alcohol sales.

The measure to permit alcohol sales in a city known for its tight controls inspired contentious debate among residents and even a City Council that frequently votes as a bloc.

The new ordinance allows for the sale of alcohol at events in city parks by vendors or contractors who show they have liability insurance and a license with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The new ordinance covers beer, wine and even frozen margaritas.

After residents took to the podium, telephones and e-mail in opposition, Mayor Tim O’Hare said he opposed the measure because “a majority of our residents do not want this.”

O’Hare likened a yes vote to Washington politicians who push measures and “don’t listen to the people.”

Councilman David Koch took offense. “I think what you said at the end is not appropriate,” Koch said.

“Your attack at me is inappropriate,” O’Hare responded.

“I have the right to express my opinion after you express your opinion,” Koch retorted.

This was flagged for me by the proprietor of the DARE to LIVE in Farmers Branch blog – which you should be reading for a good perspective on that Dallas suburb – who says it’s “the first time I’ve heard of City Council members actually opposing the Mayor!” O’Hare, you may recall, is the guy who spearheaded the successful referendum to ban apartments from renting to undocumented immigrants; that ordinance, and a stricter one that preceded it, have been struck down or restrained by the courts as legal fees and other costs mount. Anything that helps knock O’Hare down a peg or two is fine by me.

Irving proposes district council lines

Greg shows a map of the proposed new district City Council lines in Irving, which as this DMN story notes would likely unseat two current Council members and might have an effect on HD105 next year. I keep following this story for a variety of reasons. One is that it’s a look at a process that we’ll be undergoing ourselves in the near future, and will surely cause a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Two, it seems likely to me that whoever wins the initial election in that Hispanic-majority district is someone who will be a force to be reckoned with, possibly for a long time. And three, it’s fascinating to see all this change in the Dallas area, which seems to me to be a leading indicator for the rest of the state. Put it all together and how can you not watch?

Irving to appeal ruling in single-member districts lawsuit

No surprise.

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.

Irving ordered to switch to single-member Council districts

A federal judge has ordered the city of Irving, Texas, to switch to single-member City Council districts because their current at-large system was in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis issued the ruling Tuesday in response to a federal suit filed by Irving resident Manuel Benavidez, who claimed that the city’s at-large voting system essentially blocks the votes of Hispanics and violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

Solis ordered both sides to try to agree on a plan for elections and redistricting and a schedule for implementing that plan, and to submit either joint or proposed plans to the court within 90 days. If the parties fail to come up with an acceptable plan, Solis said that he would draw his own redistricting plan.

“This victory gives the Latino community in Irving a voice in the political process and the opportunity for representation,” said William A. Brewer III, partner at the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, who represented Benavidez. “We hope this result effects a positive contribution to the way in which certain municipalities approach a changing world.”

[…]

In his ruling, Solis noted numerous factors in Irving’s voting system that, “…weigh heavily against the ability of Hispanics to elect candidates of their own choosing; accordingly, the totality of the circumstances indicates the Defendant’s method of electing the mayor and members of its City Council violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”

[…]

Single-member districts have been a contentious issue in Irving on and off for decades. In February, a charter review committee recommended creating some sort of single-member district system. A petition also is circulating to let voters decide whether there should be a mixed system of single-member and at-large council seats.

Hispanics make up the largest single racial or ethnic group in Irving. But creating a new City Council district where a majority of voters are Hispanic is virtually impossible, city attorneys argued in federal court filings.

Their reasoning: About 60 percent of Irving Hispanics who are old enough to vote aren’t citizens and thus can’t cast ballots.

Irving’s mayor and eight council members are all white even though whites make up only about 35.6 percent of the city’s population, according to 2007 American Community Survey estimates. Hispanics make up 40.6 percent of the population, according to the same estimate.

Benavidez’ attorneys said Irving’s Hispanic voters have overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Hispanic candidates in recent council elections. And they argued that none of those candidates won because non-Hispanic voters, who typically cast more than 90 percent of ballots in the elections, overwhelmingly supported Hispanic candidates’ opponents.

Good for Benavidez and the residents of Irving. As Greg notes, it’s not exactly clear why the plaintiffs in Irving won but the ones in Farmers Branch lost, though they are appealing and could get a boost from this ruling. Be that as it may, Irving is another one of those places that has gone on anti-immigrant binges, and as far as I’m concerned anything that makes places like that a little more representative of its population is a step in the right direction.