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June 30, 1976 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-30

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Wednesday, June 313, 1976


Page Seven I

Wednesday, June 30, 1976 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Seven

BOSTON (A) - The Boston
School Committee, stripped of
much of its power by a federal
court desegregation order, is
now fighting for its life before
another judge of that court.
Black voters in Boston claim
they have been excluded from
"meaningful participation" in
the election of school commit-
tee members because the city's
white majority has more votes.
THEY ARE challenging t he
at-large election of the school
committee, contending that the
bitter black vs. white atmos-
phere in the city makes it im-
possible for a black to be elect-
ed in a city wide contest.
No black candidate has ever
been elected to the committee
since it went to at-large elec-
tions in 1906. Blacks make up
nearly 20 per cent of the city's
population of some 641,000 but
black students make up about
42 per cent of the public
school system.
The nine black voters w h o
brought the class action suit
against the committee - which
took 10 weeks of hearings in
U.S. District Court - want the
court to declare the at-large
election system unconstitution-
The acion would not be un-
precedented. Federal c o u r t s
have already struck down at-
large elections in a number of
southern cities and most re-
cently in Cairo, Ill.
Charges to
he filed
State Atty. Harry Morrison says
he needs about three days to
file a formal battery c h a r g e
against one-time U.S. Supreme
Court nominee G. Harrold Cars-
well in an incident involving a
vice squad officer.
"I've just got some things I
want to look into about it,"
Morrison said Monday. He had
said earlier that he would file
the charge "as soon as I can
get to it."
Morrison would not say what
he plans to investigate before he
files the formal charge. lHe
said he would not file it before
Carwell's lawyer, Murray
Wadsworth, said the f o r m e
5th U.S. Circuit Court of Ap-
peals judge would remain in
Tallahassee Memorial Hospital
about a week for treatment and
Carswell, 56, checked into the
hospital for what officials there
called a nervous condition. He
was admitted shortly after his
arrest last Thursday.
Morrison said he could prove
battery, a misdemeanor punish-
able by up to one year in jail
and a $1,000 fine.
The prosecutor has quoted
Carswell as denying any wrong-
Carwell was arrested in a
wooded area north of Tallahas-
see. le had driven to the area
with vice oficer George Greene
after they met at a shopping
mall men's room, according to
Three vice squad officers had
staked out the men's room after

merchants complained of homo-
sexual activities there, Morri-
son said.

seek voice in Boston schools

THE LEGAL question hinges
nit on whether at-large elec-
tions are inherently discrimin-
atory, but whether in Boston, a
city torn by racial tensions
over forced busing, a b I a c k
could never be elected.
"Heightened racial tension in
general has so infected Boston
politics that black candidates
or their supporters lived in fear
of physical attacks in w h i t e
areas as they faced the task of
running city wide," lawyers
for the black voters said in
their brief.
Robert Dinsmore, a lawyer
representing two Boston C i t y
Council members who entered
the case, countered that there's
more to winning an election
than race.
"Politics is like poetry; it's
difficult to come up with a win-
ning combination," said Dins-
more, who recently announced
his own bid for the U.S. Sen-
ate on an antibusing platform.
AT-LARGE elections became.
popular at the turn of the cen-
tury as a "reform" measure.
Ironically they also were used
to dilute the voting power of
the growing number of Irish
immigrants in those days when
"no Irish need apply" still ap-
peared in employment ads.
Now four of the committee's
five members are of Irish de-
Not only can't a black get
elected to the committee, the
plaintiffs contend, but in the
past 13 years no one who re-
presents black interests could
get elected.
"We are faced here with an
all-white body which has sys-
tematically violated the consti-
tutional and statutory rights of
the black community," s a i d
lawyers for the black voters.

ROGER RICE of Harvard's
Center for Law and Education,
whose attorneys represent the
black voters as they do the
black parents in the better-
known school desegregation
case, said it makes little dif-
ference that some current com-
mittee members are perceived
as "moderates."
"Sure Kathleen Sullivan i s
different than John Kerrigan
but that doesn't cut a lot in
terms of this case," Rice said.
"The point is whether g o o d
black candidates were preclud-
ed from running for office dur-
ing that same period."
Kerrigan, a former commit-
tee member, now sits on t h e
City Council.
For the plaintiffs, Harvard
University government P r of -
G-ry Orren testified that racial
polarization in the city "swell-
ed" between 1961 and 1963 and
continued to grow during each
election that followed.
"IF YOU look at tte statis-
tics, there's no question there's
polarization," Dinsmore said.
"It was always present. B u t
having polarization in and of
itself does not say something is
An expert witness for the de-
fense, University of Massachu-
setts economist Sidney Sufrin,
agreed in part.
"Anyone who would argue
that busing or the school situa-
tion hasn't caused some pol-
arization would be a fool," he
said. "But to ascribe voting
largely to color - that's just
not true."
Orren also disputed the pop-
ular notion that blacks lose be-
cause they do not register or
vote in sufficient numbers to
elect candidates.
HAD BLACKS participated

at the same rate as whites in
a 1974 referendum to abolish
at-large committee elections,
and had that entire black vote
been cast for abolition, the pro-
posal still would have lost, Or-
ren told the court.
In similar cases the U.S. Su-
preme Court has zeroed in on
the issue of vote dilution, w h e-
ther a minority is underrepre-
sented because its votes a re
scattered by at-large elections.
In a case cited by the plaiti-
tiffs, the U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Chicago upheld
black plaintiffs who challenged
the at-large election of t h e
Cairo, Ill., City Council. Al-
though Cairo had a 1970 popu-
lation of only 6,227, the appeals
court found that its elections
were subject to unconstitution-
al vote dilution.
A finding against the Boston
School Committee could lead to
a similar challenge of the city
council, also elected at large.
In this century only one black
candidate has been elected to
the council, in 1949 when elec-
tion was by districts.
HE WAS illegally prevented
from taking his seat, and in the
two years it took him to win

vindication in the courts, t h e
council switched to at-large
And despite the overwhelming
rejection in the 1974 referen-
dum of the proposal to abolish
the Boston School Committee
in favor of elected community
districts, efforts are still under
way to do way with the com-
mittee or change its election
Citv C ou'cilor lawrence Di-
('art -)noting that nine of t h e
city's 22 w-rds hove not been
represented on the school com-
mittee since before 1952, is pro-
possing a nine-member commit-
tee with five members elected
from districts and four elected
att large.
A similar proposal is before
the state legislature.
In addition to the largely
black sections such as Rox-
bury, the Italian North End
and the largely Irish section of
Charlestown have not been re-
presented on the committee for
at least 2 years, DiCara said.
Meanwhile, the court took the
case brought by the blacks un-
der advisement June 14 and
asked both sides to present le-
gal briefs by July 5.

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