Civil Rights Initiative
Court Rules it is STILL Alive!
July 14, 1999 District Judge Orders New, Honest Ballot!
On June 26, 1998 Federal District Judge Sharolyn Wood ruled that the City's re-wording of
the Houston Civil Rights Initiative as it appeared on the ballot last fall was misleading,
and it inaccurately portrayed the intent of the initiative! The Judge determined
that Houston would need to conduct a new referendum.
[ Also see Feb. 4, 1999 Update, below -- Courts leaning toward NEW ballot! ]
[ Also See Apr. 8, 1999 Update, below -- Texas Supreme Court Hearing today! ]
[ Also See July 1, 1999 Update, below -- Texas Supreme Court Rules UNANIMOUSLY in favor! ]
[ Also see July 14, 1999 Update, below -- Courts orders NEW ballot! ]
[ Also see Aug 31, 1999 Update, below -- New vote on HCRI pending! ]
As of July 1, 1999 the Texas Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the City of Houston
did, in fact, mislead the voters by re-wording the language of the initiative (see below),
AND that Judge Sharolyn Wood does have the authority to order a new, more fair, ballot
using more accurate language (as signed by over 20,500 registered Houston voters).
As of July 14, 1999 District Judge Sharlyn Wood ordered the City of Houston to conduct a
new, honest ballot with the actual, intended language! On August
30, 1999 Judge Wood will decide the date of the new vote, and other issues such as
whether she will be able to prevent Houston from illegally re-wording the ballot again!
The "Houston Strategy", as it has come to be called, is a
technique developed by supporters of racial preferences to prevent citizens from being
able to vote directly on the issues of racial preferences and racial quotas.
It is a simple, straightforward strategy: get the City Council, or other legislative
body with proper jurisdiction over referendum ballot wording, to substitute the phrase
"Affirmative Action" for "racial preferences". Thus the citizens
are faced with voting against the entirety of Affirmative Action instead of just against
racial quotas and preferences.
Examine for yourself the difference between the original ballot language
(on the left) and the misleading re-wording which the City printed on the ballot (on the
Wording of the Initiative:
Wording the City Printed on the Ballot:
|"The city of Houston shall not
discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the
basis of race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment
and public contracting."
||"Shall the Charter of the City
of Houston be amended to end the use of Affirmative Action for women
and minorities in the operation of City of Houston employment and
contracting, including ending the current program and any similar programs in the
Under current law, the City of Houston sets aside 20% of city contracts for women and
minorities. Firms owned by white males are specifically excluded from 20% of
Houston's city contracts, while minorities and women are allowed to bid on 100% of city
Opposition to the Houston Civil Rights Initiative: Firms which contributed significant funds and/or
political support in 1997 to de-railing the Houston Civil Rights Initiative
included: Arthur Andersen, Brown & Root, Browning-Ferris Industries, Duke
Energy, Enron, Kroger, Marathon, NationsBank, Paine Webber, Shell, Southwestern Bell, and
Texaco. These firms all gave freely to preserve Houston's racial preferences and
set-aside programs! They probably won't disclose this in their next report to
shareholders, but the public should know.
Inc., in particular had strong
motivation to defeat the Houston Initiative. Mere months before the Houston ballot,
Texaco had been forced to pay $176 million to settle a race discrimination suit.
The terms of the settlement included continued oversight by the EEOC as well as a
"race tribunal". The EEOC is very, very appreciative of Texaco's ongoing
efforts to reinforce the continued use of racial quotas. (See also Texaco: Horror Story Case 14.)
Paine Webber, the securities firm, had a great deal of bond
underwriting business with the City of Houston. Mayor Bob Lanier's message to Paine
Webber: help defeat the ballot initiative, or lose your lucrative business with the
city. Paine Webber was therefore very displeased with 16 year employee Edward
Blum who campaigned very hard for the initiative. (See also Paine Webber: Horror Story Case 15.)
Boycott these firms! If you believe in democratic representation, in your right to
vote on laws which affect you, and in "equal representation for all regardless of
race" then you should boycott these firms! And when you withdraw your business,
your deposits, or your funds from these firms, you should let the President or CEO know
exactly why you are taking your business elsewhere!
Washington: The ACLU
recently failed to derail the November 1998 "Washington State Civil Rights
Initiative" (I-200) by using the "Houston Strategy". Washington's
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Berschauer saw through the ACLU's sham and ruled that
the original ballot language of I-200 accurately reflected the initiative's sole purpose
to end racial preferences and racial quotas. The Judge refused to allow ACLU to
misrepresent this important Constitutional issue to the voters! ACLU unsuccessfully
argued before the court that the Washington Initiative actually seeks to end all of
Affirmative Action (this is, of course, false) and therefore, ACLU argued,
language should be included on the ballot that this referendum seeks the end to
"Affirmative Action". Thank you, Judge Berschauer for seeing the truth!
Voter referendums and ballot initiatives are becoming more popular among other states and
communities seeking to end racial quotas, preferences and reverse discrimination. It
is anticipated that the "Houston Strategy" has found a comfortable home in the
arsenals of racial special interests who don't think the citizens should be allowed to
cast their votes on this issue.
|Update Feb. 4, 1999: The nature of the debate is simplicity itself. More than 20,500 duly
registered Houston voters signed a petition to get a referendum on the November 1997
ballot. The exact of language on the petition they signed said: "The
city of Houston shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any
individual or group on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin in the
operation of public employment and public contracting."
But the city didn't let them vote on the initiative that 20,500 voters signed.
The city changed the language in order to help ensure the measure was defeated.
Therefore, the original initiative was NOT defeated because it was never voted on!
In June 1998 State District Judge Sharolyn Wood said that the ballot language as presented
to the voters did not accurately reflect the intent of the referendum. BUT she has
yet to sign a final judgment ordering a new, valid ballot. [Postscript: We'll see
what Judge Wood does now, in the face of the July 1, 1999 unanimous, favorable decision
from the Texas Supreme Court.]
Meanwhile, lawyers for both sides will argue a narrow point of law to the Texas Supreme
Court on April 8, 1999. They will argue whether or not Mr. Edward Blum, who
spearheaded the original petition drive, had legal standing to seek an injunction to stop
the election, NOT whether he should have been given an injunction. Apparently the
state's Supreme Court will not even consider the issue of the city's re-wording of the
Hopefully, Judge Wood will order the new election. Hopefully the
various courts of appeal will uphold her decision. Because the NAACP, the city
government, and their racial-special-interest supporters (Arthur Andersen, Brown &
Root, Browning-Ferris Industries, Duke Energy, Enron, Kroger, Marathon, NationsBank, Paine
Webber, Shell, Southwestern Bell, and Texaco) WILL pour vast resources into appealing any
order for a new, valid ballot.
Hopefully, the Texas Supreme Court will rule that Mr. Edward Blum and, by
extension, representatives of future referendum petitioners, had (and will have) standing
to seek an injunction in cases like this where the ballot language has been changed.
Texas Supreme Court to Hear Houston
Ballot Language Case Apr. 8, 1999
8, 1999: The Texas Supreme
Court will hear the arguments today at 9:00 AM in Blum v. Lanier, a
lawsuit that challenged the legality of changing the petition wording of the Houston Civil
Rights Initiative. The original language approved by over 20,500 registered Houston
voters clearly sought to end discrimination or preferences based on race, sex, color,
ethnicity, or national origin.
Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier and the Houston City Council totally changed the meaning
of the initiative by making it sound like it would end all affirmative action, including
outreach, rather than the initative's stated purpose of simply ending racial preferences
and quotas. (See "Comparison of Wording",
On June 26, 1998, Houston Judge Sharolyn Wood ruled this wording change was improper and
illegal, saying this manipulation went well beyond the City's limited authority to alter
wording in the interest of clarity. In a post-election comment to the New York Times, Rice
University Professor Bob Stein stated that HCRI would have passed had the original
language been on the ballot.
The Texas Supreme Court will examine whether a petitioner has standing to challenge a
ballot initiative and also whether the petitioner can be granted injunctive relief by the
courts before an initiative takes place.
Kevin Jewell with the Houston law firm Magenheim, Bateman, Robinson, Wrotenbery &
Helfand will represent HCRI in Thursday's Supreme Court hearing.
HCRI Chairman Edward Blum said, "We are confident that the Texas Supreme Court will
eventually affirm Judge Wood's decision to safeguard the integrity of citizen initiatives
against politically motivated meddling by politicians. This case is not ultimately
about racial preferences, but about making sure that a democratic process designed to
empower citizens is not destroyed simply because it produces results that conflict with
the politics of a powerful elected official."
Blum continued, "The entire purpose of the initiative process is to provide a means
by which citizens can make their voices heard without interference from entrenched
politicians and powerful special interests. A decision in our favor by the Texas Supreme
Court will not only allow the original language of the HCRI to be placed on the ballot,
but it will send a message to all Texas elected officials that they may not play political
games with the wording of citizen initiatives."
Related Story: Ballot
wording incites constitutional battle (04/09/99)
The Daily Texan On-Line student newspaper summarizes the issues before the Texas Supreme
Court. Author Katy Marquardt is somewhat biased in her presentation, using the
loaded phrase "opponents of affirmative action" instead of the more accurate
description "opponents of racial preferences and quotas."
Texas Supreme Court Rules Unanimously
In Favor of HCRI Original Language
Judge Sharolyn Wood is Granted
to Order a New Ballot on the Original, True Lanugage!
1, 1999: Today, the Texas
Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the original language of the Houston Civil
Rights Initiative (HCRI), providing Judge Sharolyn Wood with the clear authority to order
that a new election be held with the petition's original language!
News Coverage of the Opinion
by the Houston Chronicle (07/01/99)
[Note reporter Mason's biased use of the phrase "affirmative action foe" in this
story. A more accurate, objective reporter would have used the phrase "racial
"The Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that affirmative
action foe [emphasis added] Edward Blum is legally justified in challenging
the city's rewording of his November 1997 ballot proposition. The court also ruled that a
state district court has the authority to prevent the city from using vague and misleading
language, but cannot stop an election. The mixed decision could clear the way for a new
vote on the anti-affirmative action proposition that voters rejected, thereby upholding
Houston's Minority and Women Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. The ruling returns
the legal dispute to state District Judge Sharolyn Wood's court, where Wood, a Republican,
threw out the results of the Proposition A referendum in a preliminary ruling last year
that is not yet final.
"... Patrick Zummo, a lawyer for the city, said Blum and his supporters are far from
assured of a new election. 'Right now I think the other side still has to prove the
rewording of the ballot language changed the outcome of the election,' Zummo said.
'They haven't done that, and until they do that they aren't entitled to another election.'
"Mayor Lee Brown, whose election as the first black mayor aided the defeat of the
proposition because of record black-voter turnout, said in a written statement issued late
Thursday that he was confident the contracting program would survive another election. ...
Many of the core issues at stake in the case remain unresolved.
"The justices ruled in Thursday's decision that Blum does have legal standing
to challenge the city's rewording of his ballot proposition without ruling on the merits
of his case. The court, however, also noted the city has the authority to alter such
ballot language, but not to the extent that it misleads voters. The justices also ruled
that a state district court has the authority to prevent the city from using vague and
misleading ballot language, but not to stop an election. Whether the city's rewording is
vague and misleading as Blum contends is a matter for Wood's immediate consideration --
and the judge has already ruled the wording on the ballot did not reflect the
intent of [the 20,500 registered voters] who signed Blum's petition. If the judge
enters a final order determining that the ballot measure was vague and misleading, a new
election on the measure could be called." (Houston Chronicle 07/01/99 by Julie
NOTE: For the Complete (unanimous) Opinion
from the Texas Supreme Court on July 1, 1999 regarding the case of "Edward J. Blum,
Petitioner v. Bob Lanier, Mayor of the City of Houston, and the City of Houston,
Respondents", please see the following link:
Texas Supreme Court - http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/980256o.htm
Sharolyn Wood Orders
New, Honest Vote on Houston Initiative
|Update Jul. 14, 1999: Today, Texas State District Judge Sharolyn Wood signed a final order
voiding the 1997 Houston Civil Rights Initiative (HCRI) and ordering a new election with
the original language restored. This ruling finalizes her decision last year in which she
wrote a judicial letter to all parties that she found the changes made to the ballot
wording to be misleading and in violation of the Texas Election Code.
On July 2, 1999, the Texas Supreme Court in a unanimous decision found that HCRI organizer
Edward Blum had the legal right to bring a lawsuit challenging the City of Houston's
ballot language rewording. The Court also affirmed that Judge Wood had the authority to
order a new election.
"This takes us another step toward ending preferences," said Blum.
"Houstonians will finally have a fair and straightforward opportunity to end City
policies which discriminate against individuals on the basis of their race, sex, or
ethnicity," he added.
There will still be a hearing on Monday, July 19 at 10AM in Judge Wood's 127th District
Court located at 301 Fannin, but it will only concern legal fees and other peripheral
issues. It has been indicated that the City will appeal this decision.
|RELATED: Judge to set
affirmative action vote (07/14/99)
"A judge said Wednesday she plans to order the city of Houston to hold a new
affirmative action referendum in November, and that she has the duty to ensure that the
city uses proper ballot language. However, lawyers in the case said it is very unlikely
the referendum can be held his year, because of probable appeals by the city. State
District Judge Sharolyn Wood first said in June 1998 that she would order a new election
after throwing out the results of the November 1997 referendum upholding the city's
affirmative action program. The ballot language the city used did not properly convey the
proposition's original meaning, she said, but she did not sign her order until Wednesday,
apparently because of confusion between her and attorneys as to who should schedule
another hearing." (Houston Chronicle 07/14/99 by Ron Nissimov)
Judge sets trial date
on ballot issue (07/19/99)
"A judge Monday scheduled an Aug. 30 trial to determine the date of a new affirmative
action referendum she will order the city to hold.
"State District Judge Sharolyn Wood did not offer any clues during Monday's hearing
regarding the date. On Wednesday, she told attorneys it likely would be November.
"Even if Wood does order the election, it is not likely to take place any time this
year because the city plans to appeal Wood's order throwing out the results of the
November 1997 referendum upholding the city's affirmative action program.
"Wood said the language the city placed on the ballot did not fairly convey the
meaning of the language in the original proposition signed by more than 20,000 people to
put the issue up for a vote. The city contends the language was not misleading.
"Other issues Wood said she will address Aug. 30 is whether she can prevent the city
from using improper ballot language before the election and whether she will order the
city to pay the attorneys' fees of the plaintiffs.
"The trial will not have a jury, and Wood will rule on all matters.
"Conservative activist Edward Blum, who spearheaded the 1997 effort to put the
referendum on the ballot and later filed suit contesting the results, said he doesn't
trust the city to use proper language in the new referendum. 'The plaintiffs and the
court are still concerned about the city's misuse of ballot language. There is a
possibility that they could do it all over again,' Blum said." (Houston
Chronicle 07/19/99 by Ron Nissimov)
|Update Aug. 31, 1999: Yesterday District Judge Sharolyn Wood said that she would order Houston
to conduct a new ballot on the issue of ending racial and gender preferences in Houston's
New vote looms on affirmative
action for city (08/30/99)
"A judge said Monday she would order the city to hold a new affirmative action
referendum, but left it up to city officials to set the date. 'That'll be the
mayor's decision, I will leave that to the appropriate authorities,' state District Judge
Sharolyn Wood said.
"It is unclear when -- if ever -- the new election will be held. Mayor Lee
Brown has said since last year that he would appeal Wood's ruling ordering the new
election as soon as the judge signs a final judgment, which she is expected to do by the
end of the week.
"City officials contend the election will not have to be held as long as the case is
on appeal and that an appellate court will eventually overturn Wood's decision to throw
out the results of the November 1997 referendum in which voters upheld the city's
affirmative action program.
"But lawyers for Ed Blum, the conservative activist who filed a lawsuit claiming the
city improperly changed the 1997 ballot language, said Monday that even if the city does
appeal, the election must be held Nov. 2.
"They acknowledged that they had said previously that an appeal would delay an
election, but on Monday they said an April ruling by the Texas Supreme Court has convinced
them the election cannot be delayed. 'I believe if the city appeals, it will not
delay an election,' said Alan Magenheim, one of Blum's attorneys.
"Bill Helfand, another attorney for Blum, said if the city does not set a Nov. 2 date
for the election, he may seek a court order to force it to do so. ... Helfand and
Magenheim said this means the election must be held within four months of the final
judgment or on the first available election date, which would be Nov. 2."
(Houston Chronicle 08/30/99 by Ron Nissimov)