John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2012
Raton Mayor Charles Starkovich insists the form of government in his northern New Mexico city is rife with racism and discrimination against Latino residents. He says the “white people in the country club” control all the power, even though the small community of 6,800 people is 60% Hispanic.
So the 61-year-old mayor is taking a stand: He quit.
Starkovich said in a letter delivered to City Hall on Wednesday that he was resigning as mayor and city commissioner in protest to Raton’s at-large voting system. Starkovich said the system violates the federal Voting Rights Act and that he plans to file a formal complaint with the U.S. Justice Department.
“It’s a silent form of racism,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “And it waters down voting strength of a particular class of people.”
The town’s now ex-mayor says he has steamed for years as he watched political power “stolen” from Latino residents. Raton has five voting districts, and the Latino population is spread just about evenly throughout. Four of the five commissioners live within blocks of one another in one district and don’t live in the areas they purportedly represent.
Under the present system, he added, a resident of one district could cast votes in another district.
“The east side of Raton is 90% Latino, but the white class from the country club area is voting to keep a Latino commissioner out in another side of town.”
He said Raton has just one Hispanic commissioner when it should have at least three, if voting percentages held true.