144 s elected officials. R: Mayor Herbert Gears, Council members Rose tinaday, Allen E. Meagher, Lewis Patrick, Joe Phillip, x$am Smith, Thus Spin*, Rick , Beth Van Duyne. by the city’s insiders. He had no name identification with voters and found it hard to raise enough money. On election day, he was defeated by a better-known, white candidate. Castilla sees a system that has locked out most minority candidates and created a leadership elected by a small, likeminded slice of voters. Irving City Council members hardly ever hold town hall meetings, community clean-up days, or outreach events seen in cities with single-member districts. “They operate more like a corporate board:’ Castilla says. “They make their decisions, and they give reports to the stockholders once in a while.” That closed political culture has led to strict housing policies that could limit the number of Latino families in Irving. City officials have also cracked down on code enforcement at apartment complexes, even condemning several low-income apartment buildings. The reduced low-income housing stock has forced some families out of Irving, Latino community leaders say. The man caught in the middle of all these tensions is Mayor Herbert Gears. He has worked with a nonprofit that helps immigrants earn their GED and find jobs, and he came into office making friendly overtures to the Latino community. But his political future depends on appeasing the Anglo electorate. During an interview in his office, Gears says he supported the city’s legal appeal to “keep our options open.” He hopes the city will reach a deal with Brewer and Benavidez in the next few weeks. He wants Irving to resolve the single-member district issue without further litigation and to set an example for other Texas cities. Brewer, the Dallas attorney, says that after the 2010 census, many communities will have to redo their election systems to allow the elections of more minorities to office, or face lawsuits. He hopes the Irving case will prompt other communities to “hopefully change their system voluntarily to allow our new friends and neighbors to participate in municipal elections:’ If Irvingthe once 93-percent white town that hosted America’s Teamcan change, it can happen anywhere. Read more Dave Mann in “The Contrarian” at texasobserver.org . NIGHTOWER Chevron Soils Itself Chevron Corp., one of the world’s largest and most profitable oil companies, has been running a carefully crafted PR campaign telling us what a gentle giant it is. A TV ad solemnly assures us that oil and the environment are not in conflict. “This is not a liberal or conservative issue,” an announcer intones. “It’s a human issue.” Imagine the amazement this claim brings to poor people in the once-pristine Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. For a quarter of a century, Chevron’s Texaco subsidiary contaminated the land, water and people of the region with an oil extraction process so crude, careless and deadly that it still stands as one of the world’s grossest examples of corporate insensitivity. In 1990, having taken its profits, Texaco abandoned the region, removing its assets and leaving behind a ruinous toxic stew. This led the Ecuadorians to file landmark lawsuits against Chevron and Texaco in New York City and Houston. Corporate lawyers convinced a U.S. judge that the case should not be heard here, but in Ecuador. The courts there used to be notoriously corrupt and corporate-friendly, so the oil giant happily went to trial in Ecuador. But political reform had swept the country, and Chevron now faces the likelihood of having to pay $27 billion in damages. The gentle giant is reacting by roaring that it is being “bullied” by the people it harmed. It is attacking the reputation of Ecuadorian experts and judges, and has rushed back to the U.S. to beg that courts here take over the case. It’s time for Chevron to come clean, own up, and pay up. For updates and more information, contact chevrontoxico.com . For more information on Jim Hightower’s workand to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdownvisit www.jimhightower com. AUGUST 21, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 17
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