Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Not So Fast with that RISD Election

Just when I thought the Richardson ISD's transition to trustee elections with single-member-districts was a done deal, with only a few details to be decided by the board of trustees, someone throws a wrench in the works. In this case, it's our newly elected Texas House District 102 Representative Ana-Maria Ramos.

Ramos filed H.B. 3889, a bill that would mandate that three school districts (and none other) adopt elections by single-member districts. The school districts are (I think) Richardson, Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Garland ISDs. I say "I think" because, for legal reasons, Ramos doesn't name the school districts. Instead, she wrote her bill to apply to "school districts located wholly or partly in a county with a population of more than two million but less than three million" and having enrollment of more than 50,000 or more than 35,000 but less than 40,000 or more than 24,000 but less than 28,000. If it's good enough for such a narrowly drawn list of school districts, it ought to be good enough for all. But Ramos' narrowly drawn bill applies only to Dallas County and only a small subset of ISDs in Dallas County. That's just the start of my problems with Ramos' first efforts at legislating.

Didn't RISD just settle a voting rights lawsuit by agreeing to have five single-member districts and two at-large districts? Yes. Didn't CFBISD scrap its at-large electoral system in 2015 for a cumulative voting process? Yes. (By the way, cumulative voting is my preferred system to increase diversity of all kinds on governing bodies, not just racial.)

The problem is getting resolved locally. Sure it's taken lawsuits but those are now history for two of the three districts in Ramos' bill. Is there evidence of dissatisfaction with those new systems in the minority communities in those districts? Not that I've seen. Is there demand for more state involvement in local government in those school districts? Hell no. The move is a disappointment. Doesn't Ramos have more important battles to fight, like reforming the state's school finance system?

I had thought that state meddling in local control was a Republican trait, what with tax caps, bathroom bills and bans on so-called sanctuary cities, and bans on cities regulating fracking within their own city limits. I had thought that as a Democrat Ramos would be different. That she would stay in her lane. Instead, I guess it's instinct with politicians. Rail against state overreach until you get to the statehouse yourself and then start overreaching yourself. It's a bad look by either party.

So what's with Ana-Maria Ramos' bill? I asked her campaign and haven't heard back. Let's hope that her bill goes into the giant maw of legislative bill-making in Austin and Ramos herself never hears back from her fellow legislators. And that she consults her constituents and local government officials before she tries again. (Full disclosure: I do not live in Ramos' district, but I do live in Richardson ISD.)


Mark Steger said...

I struck through one sentence after a reader criticized me for using an idiom that has a sexist connotation. In over ten years of blogging this is the only time (that I can find) that I've used the phrase. It will also be the last time. Because I would never mean it in that way.

Mark Steger said...

HB 3889 died in committee. Good. Single member districts may or may not be the right thing. But imposing it on individual districts one by one, in a top-down manner that allows no role for local control, is the wrong way to go about it.