Lewis pleads with City Council to save Seat 6; no response

Published 2:36 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2018

By David Ball


Does silence always mean consent? Not necessarily.

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Not one Port Arthur City Council member responded at their regular meeting Tuesday morning after Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr., District 5 councilman, gave a presentation regarding the 2010 Census for Districts 2, 3 and 6 and in favor of retaining City Council seats 5 and 6 — including his own position.

Lewis, due to leave the City Council in May when his current District 5 term ends, said former District 2 Councilwoman Tiffany Hamilton, former District 3 Councilman Morris Albright III and District 6 Councilman Osman Swati failed to schedule a public hearing or do a mailout to the Hispanic constituents about how doing away with District 5 and 6 would have a negative impact on those voters.

More than 11,000 residents voted in the November 2016 election with 7,4532 voting for the removal of Seats 5 and 6 and 3,843 against. Lewis wants to flip that result.

Lewis said District 6 draws from voters in an overlapping district; if Districts 2 and 3 fail to represent constituents then District 6 would represent them.

“How do you get citizens to vote against their best interests?” Lewis rhetorically asked. “There were two things the Council could do about this: Make it about Councilman Lewis and bring out the haters, or make the issue about saving the taxpayers’ money. What was this really about? It’s about District 6 and 26,420 (Hispanics) there.”

He believes if the election were held today, Hispanics could take District 6, except for what he suggested were plans by those three council members to disperse Hispanic voter population.

“That’s the real reason behind this. The only reason someone would come up with this is to protect their seats,” Lewis said. “If the Hispanics and Latinos do not do anything, the (U.S.) Justice Department can’t help and the districts will go away.”

Additionally, Lewis said he thinks Hispanic candidates would win Districts 2 and 3 within 10 years.

“This is not about saving the taxpayers money. It’s not about Councilman Lewis because I only have one vote,” he said.

After the meeting, Swati said the way the Port Arthur City Council is currently formed will change April 24— the last meeting before Districts 5 and 6 are dropped. Then, there will be seven members on the City Council rather than the current nine.

“Each member of the city, no matter their color, ethnicity, background, will be able to vote for four out of the seven council members,” Swati said. “If you have access to four you have access to the majority. This doesn’t discriminate. Citizens will have fair direct access to the majority.”

“Does this have a negative impact on the Hispanic community? Absolutely not,” Swati said. “If anything, the Hispanic vote will eventually win five out of seven seats: that’s Districts 2, 3, 7, 8 and the mayor.

“The picture is very crystal clear. If anyone’s muddying the water it’s Bae Lewis,” he said. “Why doesn’t he file an injunction (with the DOJ)? Why don’t his voters who wanted to get rid of Positions 7 and 8 (elected citywide) file? They’ve seen the numbers on the ballot of the election to get rid of 5 and 6 and no one has filed an injunction.”

Lewis previously said the remedy for the Hispanic community is to contact the U.S. Department of Justice, which he said is accepting data from citizens from District 6 to file an injunction.

Swati added the City Council hasn’t seen the last of Lewis because he can run for any seat for which he’s qualified.

“It’s not over,” he said.