No matter which side of the fence you sit on, one must find this argument becoming quite amusing. According to the Republican, Judge Ponsor, the Federal Judge in the Voting Rights lawsuit, questioned the nature of the plaintiffs’ proposal as it would create FIVE majority white districts out of NINE. Now, I’m pretty good at counting and five is a majority. This assumes everyone votes as a block as if Springfield has a volatile history of racial tension like say Boston ca. 1973? Either way, in whose hands does the power lie?
Ultimately, this entire problem comes down to voting. If all of the minorities in the city voted, this city could have a black or Hispanic mayor and majority on the council. However, they do not and I am taking the extreme and condescending view that all minorities think and vote alike. In my estimate, the plaintiffs in this case are doing the same. Do they expect all blacks/Hispanics to vote with one voice for the candidates that match their ethnicity without looking at the issues and the qualifications of the candidates? Its kind of a tacit form of voter intimidation. Again, this assumes all minorities in the new wards show up to vote. Perhaps the plaintiffs in this case could explain to me how Hispanics do not make up a majority in the Holyoke City Council given that they hold significant influence in the city. It is said to be the largest Puerto Rican city in the lower 48.
Then we come to the next inevitable question. Is there ANY guarantee that those elected from the minority wards will be of that minority? NO. Whites may still live in those wards and may still run for office. Perhaps if they resonate with the voters white or minority they could win. Or more cynically, the minorities may not vote in significant numbers to overcome the votes of whites. We could have the same problem.
I also have to take exception with comments made by some involved with this case. State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera testified in this case and claimed that her electoral success is due to her being half Irish. Well, while being part Irish in Springfield is certainly a plus regardless of what the other half is, I doubt that it was what made Coakley-Rivera a success. Until recently, I only thought of her as Cheryl Rivera, no Irish hyphenation. I frankly did not even know (or care) that she was part Irish. I’m sure that many in her district felt the same, especially since many in her district have no connection to Eire or any other Caucasian nation. This blog endorsed her for public office because of her tireless advocacy for the city, not her ethnicity. I’m am positive that those who put her in office the first time were of the same mind.
It may be time to pursue a smaller ward plan as currently before the legislature. It carries the risk of empowering old time “ward bosses,” however. However, this lawsuit, which I feel stands to only benefit a very select ambitious few, only serves to stratify the city. It pulls it apart at a time when we so desperately need unity. Nonetheless, I stand firm to the saying that “decisions are made by those who show up.” If you don’t like who’s at the party, then its time to make your appearance. It’s never too late.