Thursday, November 17, 2011

Affirmative Action is Alive and Well and Living in Peoria

Affirmative action was the result of the Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1964, and enacted into law by President Lyndon Johnson. On September 24th, 1965, he enacted Executive Order 11246 which stated that all government contractors would take “affirmative action” toward the consideration of minority employees. In 1967, the order was amended to include discrimination by gender.

Up until 1997, the Affirmative Action policies were considered the “law of the land”. Less qualified candidates gained admission to colleges, were placed in jobs where better suited candidates were available, were promoted over their more senior co workers, and in general caused the nation to recede in its ability to move forward. Since many candidates for both employment and higher education were clearly unqualified, the claim was made that the tests and requirements for those circumstances were themselves “discriminatory”, based on the quality of an individual's education and social status. This resulted in standards being lowered so that minority candidates could participate.

Affirmative action did more to solidify and establish racism than any prior attempt to equalize the opportunities for all Americans. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 1,002 registered “hate” organizations in the United States, and these are only those organizations who openly admit to their beliefs.

Today, Affirmative Action is alive and well in the City of Peoria. It is called cumulative voting, and it is a front invented to assure people of color that there is some equity provided by allowing voters to cast multiple votes for a single candidate in the “at-large” elections. In fact, according to an article appearing in the Journal Star on November 13th, only one candidate of color has been elected to an “at-large” council seat since the inception of cumulative voting in 1991.

While this councilman, W. Eric Turner, may have been elected based on that system, his subsequent reelection has been the result of his obvious hard work and political abilities, not cumulative voting. The other candidate who benefits from cumulative voting is Gary Sandberg, often described as a thorn in the mayor's side.

Tuesday, the city council heard arguments concerning redistricting. Since I was not able to attend, I am relying here on the minutes of the council meeting, available to anyone at the Peoria City website.

Had the city council chosen to ask voters to move to a 10 district council in order to both relieve the representative burden now borne by 5 districts, the question would be moot. Mayor Ardis, Riggenbach, Spain, and Gulley voted for the 10 district plan. Akeson, Weaver, Irving, Spears, Turner, and Van Auken voted against the plan. Significantly, Sandberg was once again absent.

Had the city council chosen to ask voters to move to an 8 district council with 2 At-Large members without cumulative voting, the question would be moot. Mayor Ardis, Riggenbach, and Van Auken voted to support such a measure. The remainder of the council did not.

The end result of these two actions? We continue to have 5 districts which will be reapportioned to fit within the requirements of representation, and we will continue electing 5 At-Large representatives with cumulative voting. And cumulative voting is Affirmative Action.

According to the representatives who spoke at the meeting, the cumulative voting does not accomplish what it was intended to accomplish. So are we then saying we will accept the insanity of our current system and hope for different results?

The argument of dividing the city into 10 smaller districts had the most merit in my opinion, since this would allow smaller segments of the population to elect representation from their own districts. And at least 3 of those districts would have been areas where minorities are the predominant residents. Now that may or may not make a difference, since the number of minority voters in Peoria elections continues to be low. But since the candidates from a primarily minority area are likely to be minorities themselves, at least the voters who did participate would have the opportunity of being represented by a member of their community.

Even the 8 district plan would have to include at least 3 areas where minority population was larger. And while this would not solve the problem of participation, the above argument holds true. Since residency in your district is a requirement, 3 out of 8 members would be representatives of minority areas. And 4 out of 10 is twice as good as 2 out of 10. (I am assuming that of the two At-Large representatives, Councilman Turner would keep his job. Hoping, actually.)

But this all so many words and not enough action. Since the purpose of all this discussion is to determine how to better serve the citizens of Peoria, why not throw all this effort into educating people about the importance of participation? Why not let people know that, regardless of your race, religion, ethnicity, or social status, you DO make a difference in our community?

We have spent several generations trying to achieve “Equality” in this nation, and have come up instead with a plan that denigrates the inherent ability of every human being to rise above their circumstance and achieve true independence. We have raised generations of people to believe they cannot survive without government assistance, they have no opportunity beyond their poverty, and there is no real help aside from handouts and empty promises. We have created our own underclass, and we insist on allowing them to flourish and grow.

True equality is when you stop thinking of yourself as a victim and start trying to make your life better. Poverty is not a racial condition, nor is despair. The current economic setbacks have affected everyone in this nation with the exception of the very wealthy, the “1%” the Occupy protestors are complaining about. The rest of us, regardless of color or faith or gender, are in the same boat. We are the 99%, and we are all worried, and rightfully so, about the future of the nation, of this state, and of the City of Peoria.

Continuing to follow the same path like lambs to the slaughter is an unacceptable solution to the problem. The city council needs to choose a proposition that allows for more equity and less pandering to the Powers That Be. The citizens of the city of Peoria need to let their representatives know, by email, letters, and phone calls, that this current decision is unacceptable. We need to change the way we elect our representatives. We need to educate our citizens. We need to change.


  1. With all due respect, you have this turned around.

    Right now, Peoria voters participate in elections where they elect a majority of winners -- the five at-large seats and one ward seat. With a 10-ward plan, a voter would only have influence over a single representative. With the 8-ward plan, they only would have influence over 3 representatives.

    Cumulative voting doesn't direct people to vote by race. It simply opens representation to more voters in the city. Voter can vote based on whatever they want and are more likely to elect someone.

    Compare the at-large elections in Peoria, with real voter choice, to the district elections for the Illinois house of representatives. Very few districts are competitive. Back when cumulative voting was used, more than one party almost always won in every district -- more voters elected someone. That's not "affirmative action" -- that's simply representation.

  2. First of all, your logic seems a bit off when you consider the amount of people that actually show up to vote, about 20% according to the article in Friday's Journal Star. Secondly, the At-Large members are not accountable to a constituency for their actions, unless you consider them accountable to the entire city. I have yet to hear of one polling the city for input before they vote.
    As to cumulative voting being about race, the practice came about as a result of a racially motivated lawsuit. The intent of cumulative voting was to increase the possibility of electing minorities to the city council. An intent, by the way, that has shown little fruition.
    Last, but certainly not least, I tend to disregard anyone who has the audacity to comment without a signature.