Tag Archives: voting plan

Change in Amarillo school voting plan? Don’t count on it

Amarillo’s public school trustees are going to meet tonight to “discuss” possible changes in the way they get elected.

The item was proposed by Amarillo Independent School District Trustee James Allen, the board’s lone African-American.

There might be a move toward electing trustees from single-member districts. Or — if very recent history is a guide — there will be virtually no change.

Given the way the AISD board choked on a measure to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School, I won’t bet the farm that the board will change, at least not right away.

AISD trustees had a chance to rename the school named after a Confederate army general who fought to preserve slavery in the nation. The school sits in a neighborhood populated by African-American residents. What did the board do? It  took the name “Robert E.” off the school and named it only “Lee Elementary School.”

As if that is meaningful?

Well, now the board is considering — maybe, possibly — moving from a cumulative voting system to a plan that elects trustees from single-member districts. The aim, as I understand it, would be to spread representation to all neighborhoods. The current board currently resides mostly in southwest Amarillo and the tony Wolflin neighborhood; only two trustees live in north or east Amarillo.

Cumulative voting was created as a compromise to settle a lawsuit brought by the League of United Latin-American Citizens, which sought to force AISD to get more minority representation on its board. Cumulative voting allows voters to cast ballots proportionately. For example: If three seats are up for election, voters can cast all three votes for a single candidate; or they can cast two for one and one for another; or … they can cast single ballots for each of the candidates.

AISD trustees now are going to begin the discussion about possible changes in the district’s voting plan.

It’s a fascinating idea that, given the changing demographics of Amarillo, could be implemented with great success. AISD could have representation from all neighborhoods on the board that sets public education policy. Every neighborhood deserves have a voice. Let’s face it: The desires of Sleepy Hollow residents are significantly different from those who live in The North Heights.

To paraphrase the song: The times may be a changin’.

Or, given AISD’s recent history, maybe not.

Does election diminish need to rethink voting plan?

Elisha Demerson’s election to the Amarillo City Council made history.

It also might have taken a bit of the bite out of those who think the city should revamp its voting plan to create a single-member district for its council members.

I am continuing to consider that a change in the city’s voting plan is in order.

My long-standing support of the city’s at-large system continues to waver, even though Demerson’s election as an African-American candidate in the current system might augur against such a change.


I’m not keen on creating four single-member districts, while electing the mayor at-large. If I were King of the World, I’d consider expanding the council by two places, giving it six council member and electing two of the six at-large while dividing the city into four wards.

Other cities have done something like with varying degrees of success.

Indeed, Demerson’s victory is a ringing triumph for those in Amarillo who’ve declared that it’s virtually impossible for a minority candidate to win an at-large contest. The city’s black population comprises less than 10 percent of the total.

But think also about this: While Demerson was defeating incumbent Ellen Green in Place 1, Lilia Escajeda — the council’s sole Hispanic member — lost her seat to challenger Randy Burkett.

Does her loss lessen the joy that minorities are feeling today over Demerson’s victory?

Hey, I’m just askin’.