State Representative Armando Walle appeared before the Houston ISD school board today to argue that rather than an appointment, the trustees should vote for a called election this November to fill Diana Davila's unexpired term.
"We don't like this patron politics," Walle told the board during its workshop session. He said a letter signed by him and 11 other state and local Hispanic leaders was done to make clear "our commitment to transparency."
Walle, as it turned out, wasn't alone in his sentiments. After open discussion, the board voted 8-0 to call the election rather than appoint anyone. Last week, a vote calling for an election failed in a 5-3 vote with only Larry Marshall, Manuel Rodriguez and Carol Mims Galloway supporting it.
An example of the division there's been in the community over this issue was that two representatives from LULAC - Mary Ramos and Mary Almendarez -- spoke against an election, saying an appointment was better now in order to avoid an interruption of representation for the east side district on the school board. Almendarez urged that the board appoint Judith Cruz, who was one of the candidates at the forum. (Almendarez also separately told Hair Balls that we'd made a mistake when we called Cruz white. "She is a Latina," Almendarez said.)
Trustee Harvin Moore also spoke in favor of an appointment saying he was concerned that it was such a short time before the election this November. And it's an even shorter time for the filing deadline: 5 p.m. Monday, August 30.
But in the end what won out was the argument that residents of District VIII would really resent not being given the opportunity to vote. In fact, Moore made the motion calling for the election.
Trustee Paula Harris pointed out that other members of the board had been elected in special elections rather than the board stepping in and appointing a new member
"We didn't do it with other special elections of board members sitting here," she said. "People will get emotional about voter's rights."
Marshall echoed her. "The right thing to do here is to not disrespect a community of interest that is part of our district. You wouldn't do it in River Oaks. To sit here this morning and say what we think is in the best interests of a community ... is not what we want to be about."
Trustee Mike Lunceford perhaps put it in simplest terms. "I voted in every election since I was 18. It's everybody's right."
Several trustees said they thought the forum at Furr High School last Thursday went well and was important in any case to give voters a chance to meet possible candidates. One of those candidates, Sonny Flores, appeared before the board today asking for their appointment. After the meeting, he said he plans to run for the position.
Trustee Anna Eastman said her vote last week wasn't against calling an election, it was a vote to give her more time to consider the issues.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its print and online publications. An award-winning journalist, in addition to editing, she frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.