A little while ago, the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees was treated to its own redistricting drama courtesy the public speakers lined up, for the most part, behind trustee Carla Ranger, who has accused board president Lew Blackburn of wanting "to take by force" several schools -- among them Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School, Wilmer-Hutchins High School and Clinton P. Russell Elementary.
Ranger's furious that a last-minute map -- one sent to trustees only last night, hours before tonight's proposed vote to send it to the Justice Department for preclearance -- moves those schools and five other campuses and facilities out of her District 6 and into Blackburn's District 5. Among those who spoke on Ranger's behalf: NAACP Dallas Chapter president Dr. Juanita Wallace, former Dallas Area Rapid Transit board member Joyce Foreman
and Rev. Holsey Hickman.
Foreman was particularly harsh, referring to the board president as a "tyrant" who has "used your gavel, your tongue, your position to push Mrs. Ranger and attempt to shut her down. ... And we all know how that works. You can ask Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Saddam Hussein, [Josip Broz] Tito, Idi Amin. They all fall." Big applause; some laughs too. Foreman also brought up long-lingering allegations that Blackburn lives in Grand Prairie and suggested he run for a school board in Tarrant County.
Wallace, last seen speaking at the "Justice for John" rally and protesting flow control, spoke about how there's "a movement in Dallas to roll back the progress made by civil rights." Then Hickman got up -- hoping, perhaps, that maybe Blackburn would try to have him escorted out of the room. Again.
"If you on that board do not respect my representative, you do not respect me," he said. "I've seen over the last five years, over the time my representative, Mrs. Ranger, has been sitting there, continuous gross disrespect for her, therefore gross disrespect for me," he said. "Last week a white woman gave a cue for a black man to jump on a black woman. It's unrighteous. You trustees are people who have integrity. We're calling upon you to exercise your integrity around your issue of schools being moved out District 6 into District 5.
"It is certain, it is certain, it is certain, it is certain as to where Carla Ranger lives. I've heard some of you there on this board say to people that you know where Dr. Blackburn does not live. You now that. Why would you want to move a group of people in one district who know where their representative lives to a district where it's grossly uncertain as to the domicile of Dr. Blackburn. Why would you do that?"
At which point he was cut off. Because his time was up.
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There were two speakers who spoke against Ranger -- or for Blackburn, depending on your point of view. Claudia Fowler of the Wilmer-Hutchins Alumni Planning Committee, said, look, "We want to be in one district. We are tired of being in two school districts. ... We want to be under Lew Blackburn." No disrespect, Carla.
Blackburn then asked if the board was ready to vote on Plan 12. Everyone said sure. Except for Ranger, who said, look, no one's seen the thing. (A map's hanging on a wall at 3700 Ross.) Edwin Flores said, well, there have been public meetings (only a handful, and at least one of which I know was poorly attended). And the attorneys hired by the district to draw the map said, well, a version of it's been on the website for the past month (sure, but there are a handful of maps up there, all of which are labeled as "illustrative") and that it's a perfectly fine map that "attempts to solidify and keep communities of interest together," especially in West Dallas, which is why Eric Cowan's losing some of his Oak Cliff campuses, which he said he's sorry about but completely understands.
Anyway. The board's behind closed doors discussing the issue and whether to vote now or later. Watch here if you're around. And incidentally, that music that's been playing while the board's been in executive session for the last 45 minutes or so? None other than district spokesman Jon Dahlander's. Volume 3, specifically. Nice. Is Project Runway on yet? Priorities.
Update: Ranger lost, 8-1.