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16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 21, 2009 Mayor Herbert Gears is caught in the middle of Irving’s demographic tensions. Supporters of single-member districts dismiss the Dallas comparison. The dysfunction in Dallas or Los Angeles or any city isn’t related to single-member districts, they say. It’s a symptom of big-city politics and large city councils \(Dallas and Grand Prairie have gone to single-member districts without any trouble. Quite a few Anglos now see single-member districts as inevitable. Joe Putnam, who served on Irving’s City Council for 13 years and mayor from 1999 to 2005, has urged former colleagues to scrap the at-large voting system. “They didn’t listen to me,” he says. “They’re people who benefit from the present system in one way or another, and so they simply can’t envision a change from the status quo. The truth is that change occurs anyway, and people will accept it. … The town has outgrown the at-large system:’ Still, proponents of singlemember districts have been rebuffed numerous times. As early as the 197os, there were ballot initiatives for single-member districts. Since Benavidez filed his lawsuit, city leaders have fought it vigorously at every step. Minority candidates have trouble winning under the current system for two main reasons. Although Latinos make up more than 4o percent of the population, many aren’t citizens and can’t vote. Moreover, many who can vote photo by Dave Mann don’t. The majority of people who vote citywide are Anglos. The second problem is money. Running a citywide campaign costs more than a single-district campaign. For a minority candidate who isn’t well known to white residents, it’s hard to raise enough money to introduce yourself. In 2003, Rene Castilla, who works at a local college and chairs a city advisory committee, ran for an open City Council seat. He had once served on the Dallas school board and thought he could break the color barrier in Irving. Castilla was seen as an outsider. He had come from Dallas to a town that views all things Dallas with suspicion \(except the professional football franchise