Five minutes ago, the Fort Worth schools board of trustees voted unanimously to name J. R. Martinez to fill the empty and new District 8 seat. Martinez will serve for a year, until the regular election in 2013. Fourteen people started out vying for the seat, with the board whittling that number down to five. See Blotch “Monday Night Fights FWISD Style.” For those expecting fireworks, there were none. It went so smoothly that one would have thought it was rehearsed.
Martinez had a few more than a dozen supporters in the board room, many of whom spoke in his behalf. All five of the finalists were interviewed by the board; the candidates were looser than the board members whose questions were stiff and awkward. All were reading from what seemed a text. The candidates answered thoughtfully and with candor. Refreshing.
Then the board adjourned — over the objections of Trustee Carlos Vasquez — into the back room to “discuss” the process. Vasquez said that was illegal. Legal guru Bertha Whatley overruled Vasquez and off they trooped to the back room for an hour. Then they came back to vote. And it was one weird vote. President Juan Rangel asked each one to name the person that was his or her preference. They all named different ones. T. A. Sims named Martinez for the right reasons: he said the board should listen to the voices of the district. In an earlier version of this post I said that Sims was the only one to name Martinez. I was wrong. Martinez was named by four members, including Vasquez, president Juan Rangel and trustee Ann Sutherland who stated that she had changed her mind. I apologize for the error.
Then Vasquez, made a motion to appoint Martinez. He got a second from Judy Needham, Rangel called for a vote and what do you know, Martinez was appointed 8 to 0. What? All of those board members had other favorites and in a quick turnaround, Martinez was in.
If anyone came away from watching tonight’s democracy in action, there’s no way to believe that the board didn’t make deals behind those closed doors. Everyone got to name their favorite but Martinez was who they were going to vote for.
There’s no doubt the Spanish handwriting is on this district’s walls. It is a minority/majority district, with more than 60 percent Hispanic district-wide. District 8 is over 65 percent. it was fair and right to name a Latino to the post. Now, the board is getting closer to reflecting the district with three Hispanics, two blacks, and four whites. Still needs some changes, but it is getting there.
And there is no question from his credentials that Martinez is qualified. And oriented toward children. And intelligent. We wish him well.
But if anyone thinks this was a “democratic” process, they need to go back to civics class. It was staged. And not very well at that.