Category Archives: Commentary

Arlington City Council’s Covert Free Speech Restrictions

At the Oct. 28 meeting, the Arlington City Council enacted an amended sidewalk ordinance prohibiting pedestrians from dispensing literature while in the street to motorists. The move is sure to draw legal challenges from members of Open Carry Tarrant County, who successfully sued the city in federal court on the grounds that the restrictions passed in May were a violation of their free speech rights.

When giving testimony before the unanimous city council vote, Jacob Cordova, an organizer for OCTC, foresaw the outcome and said the group is up to the challenge. “I just kind of got up there and told them we would see them in federal court here soon,” he said.

It’s not often that a city is rebuked by a federal judge for violating a fundamental right in the Bill of Rights, but the city council members have taken the challenge as an opportunity to show just how disconnected they from ordinary residents. With direction by the same legal council that cost them thousands in legal fees, they worked in closed executive session for months to craft the ordinance revisions. They haven’t so much as given a courtesy call to Open Carry Tarrant County that the ordinance was up for discussion, let alone seek input from any local organizations to be affected by the restrictions.

Robert Harris, the Libertarian candidate for state House District 94, said that it wasn’t only gun rights supporters who would be affected. It’s also affecting local state House candidates. “This ordinance is in violation of state law, state statues. It’s in violation of election code, electioneering laws in this state. And I hope you realize that as of tomorrow morning, [Democrat nominee] Cole Ballweg’s people will be ticketed or arrested for what they are doing on the street, and so will [Republican nominee] Tony Tinderholt’s people who are campaigning, so will my people.”

Cordova said he didn’t think the council is responsive to public input. “It’s kind of getting tired. I felt that the citizens are making no moves or no waves, I guess, with out voice right. So while we voice our opinion, it gets us nowhere.” The three speakers who addressed the ordinance before the vote all spoke against it.

The revised ordinance prohibits pedestrians from entering the roadway at traffic light controlled intersections to pass out literature, even though they are allowed cross the street at those intersections.

Cordova didn’t rule out civil disobedience. “We don’t plan on getting arrested for it. We’re going to take it to court. However, if we do plan on getting arrested for it, we going to talk to our attorneys and find out what the best advice is. And if going is down happens to be what our option is, I might have to go down for something.”

Whatever Gov. Perry Plans We Can Plan Better

The Plano City Council recently earmarked $6.5 million in economic incentives for Toyota Motor North America to relocate its California headquarters. The bulk of an incentive package that reportedly totaled approximately $50 million was fueled by the Texas Enterprise Fund, a wholly owned subsidiary of Governor Rick Perry’s campaign machine.

The agreement would have Toyota employ approximately 3,500 full-time workers on site by 2018 and generate billions in economic activity over the course of the next decade. The package was sold as a prudent investment for tax payers as the deal would reportedly pay for itself and lift the prestige of the suburban Dallas city. In a state that bills itself as a beacon of fiscal responsibility under Republican political leadership, it would seem surprising that these types of deals are necessary in the first place to recruit new firms. Even still, the deal leaves low-income works even more marginalized, made to be outsiders who lack access to political lobbying and business sway.

Instead of directing resources with regard to the most urgent demands of consumers, the city of Plano and Gov. Perry are taking tax dollars to configure economic output to their liking. Perry’s “corporate slush fund,” according to Mother Jones, follows no process for distributing its $487 million stash other than the governor’s whim.

When I pointed out to a colleague at work this seeming incompatibility with concern for the least advantaged, I was informed these kind of dealings should just be expected, that these sorts of compromises make job creation possible. It’s cast as a choice between false alternatives: either let corporate behemoths impose themselves or forfeit potential economic development. The truth is that false alternative is meant to mislead people into thinking that giving special privileges to favored groups can be done for the benefit of those who were plundered. For the average worker, such merchanitilist policies are “frankly interested in exploiting their labor to the utmost,” noted economist Murray Rothbard.

It’s no surprise that people who hold the reigns on capital (in large part because of state controls) hold the reigns on the labor market. But it’s a mistake to accept the present arrangement of capital as an obvious given if it were set into place by a system rigged against ordinary workers. Political insiders can always take care of themselves, and this welfare package for Toyota is evidence of that. Those closest to state power pilferage their communities, trading in whispers instead of productive achievement.

When Gov. Perry’s state government has gotten out of the way, Texans have proved they can make their own business. Forbes reported more than a thousand local business have bloomed since controls were eased on selling food from home. How many other budding entrepreneurs are being thwarted by regulatory barriers and high taxes? With nearly a half billion dollars in reserve, could tax cuts for lower income families generate even more growth than what already established industries offer? No one can say with certainty, least of all a a governor who hasn’t held a job outside of government since the year the Olympics were held in Atlanta.

As the recent homespun chefs are showing, with production becoming less and less capital intensive, large-scale operations will have to retrace their access to state benefits if they hope to maintain their relevance.

[Ed. Note: The title was inspired by a Gary Chartier article.]

Rockwall Voters Asked to Fund Real Estate Speculators (VIDEO)

The underground rock formation (photos here) that became the namesake of Rockwall (TX) has been repeatedly discredited from being a man-made pre-historic structure, but that hasn’t dampened land developers from pursuing taxpayers to fund glitched real estate projects.

This comes at a time when the city just hiked property taxes by 4.7 percent.

If the project were thought to be economically viable, private developers wouldn’t need bond funds, reminding me of a Kevin Carson line.

It’s easier to dig when you can use taxation to make others pay for the shovels. Government is not funded by individual choice. It is funded through coercion based on the choices of those making the rules.

Government is structured so those who are most able to access the top levels of policy-making wield political power. Because of this, government responds primarily to the most powerful groups in society, who create solutions that everyone will be forced to follow. Government answers to the political demand of power, not to the diverse demands of individual actors.

Dalworthington Gardens Withholding Checkpoint Policies and Records

In response to an open records request to the Dalworthington Gardens Department of Public Safety following a license and insurance checkpoint over the Labor Day weekend, the city’s attorney has drafted a sweeping request to Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott to withhold all information of the city’s policies for establishing checkpoints and governing the conduct of officers at those operations.

Civil rights advocates have been wary of suspicionless checkpoints for being vulnerable to abuse as a revenue-generating program against members of low-income communities who have fewer resources to challenge criminal charges stemming from those officer interactions. That has led officials in nearby agencies, like the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, to be forthcoming with the traffic data being used to set up the location and timing of checkpoints. Dalworthington Gardens’s checkpoint was held near the intersection of W. Pioneer Pkwy. and S. Bowen St. on Aug. 29, which for a few blocks is within the city’s jurisdiction.

According to the city’s request for an opinion from the attorney general, release of department policies could pose a threat to officer safety and others present on scene of a license checkpoint. The city’s Department of Public Safety expressed reservations that releasing information from its policy manual concerning the location, timing, method, and duration of the checkpoint would “unduly interfere with law enforcement activity and crime detection and prevention.” They are concerned people may learn of opportunities “to evade or interfere with” checkpoints and the investigation techniques of officers.

While officer and civilian safety should be a consideration, without information being made available for public oversight, there is no opportunity to validate that the policies for the checkpoint are administered with due process equally for all drivers who encounter a checkpoint or if voters in Dalworthington Gardens want an opportunity to change those policies. Visitors have no means of considering if city policies are compromising to their privacy. By withholding this critical information, there is no way to determine what considerations the city is using to see if less intrusive measures could achieve the same purported ends of enforcing license and insurance compliance.

That is exactly what the “spectators,” as the city attorney referred to them, at the checkpoint were thwarted from doing since there is no way to know if the city’s written policies are being carried through. The city says that releasing information may also jeopardize the city’s criminal proceedings for the approximate 60 citations issued during that night. However, if policies were followed and have legal backing, release of the information should have no bearing on any pending criminal cases.

Even more alarming, the city is withholding information on what discretion officers are given in selecting which vehicles to stop at checkpoints. This raises serious concerns about the city’s policies, as the reason for detaining a driver should be objective and have no basis in officer discretion if it’s to be compliant with the federal constitution’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Of the eight requests made, two were fulfilled, three were said to have no relevant information available, and three were withheld altogether for the reasons cited above. The city attorney states there is no responsive information to the requests for information that the Department of Public Safety relied upon in choosing to establish the checkpoint, information concerning the amount of revenue estimated to be generated by the checkpoint, and the total cost of the operation. According to the release, no property was seized.

With no public records concerning information the city used in choosing to establish when or how to best perform the operation, residents in Dalworthington Gardens are being shut out of the political process and are expected to give a free hand to a city government’s seemingly protracted grip.

Tyrant Joe Arpaio Fundraising in South Lake

Arizona sheriff and underwear mogul Joe Arpaio will be fundraising for the NE Tarrant Tea Party at a home in South Lake in September.

Arpaio’s presence casts such unease that one of the FAQs is whether guests will need to provide ID to attend. Luckily, “All patriots” are welcomed.

For the sum of $250, attendees will get to eat a homemade meal with Arpiao, unlike the detestable spread served to many of Arpaio’s prisoners yet to be convicted of a crime, along with an autographed pair of pink underwear similar to the garb provided in his Maricopa County jails. Granted, having people wear jailhouse underwear is a likely approximation for the disposition Arpaio has toward ordinary people.

Importance of Black Open Carry in South Dallas

Members of the newly minted Huey P. Newton Gun Club patrolled Dallas streets last week in pursuit police accountability and support of gun ownership.

Although the event was planned before the recent homicide of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by a white Ferguson (Mo.) police officer, his death may have been a national tipping point highlighting the militarization of police and their lack of accountability.

According to the club’s website:

Individuals across this nation have been stripped of due process, subjected to state-sponsored police terrorism, and continue to suffer the fate of being terminated extra-judicially.

In Dallas the police have murdered over 70 unarmed individuals, most of the black and brown men, over the last ten years. Excluding a recent incident where police testimony was contradicted by surveillance footage, there have been no indictments since 1973.

A group of “Black and Brown residents,” as the club’s websites describes, may seem alienating from the larger police accountability and gun rights movements, but it’s important for members of a largely black neighborhood to patrol neighborhoods they live in, deflating the argument that the unaccountable powers of (mostly white) police are needed for maintaining civil order. They are mutualizing the municipal policing service, building counter-power patterned after direct democracy.

In a comparable manner that decentralized police accountability organizations like Cop Block and the Peaceful Streets Projects don’t participate with active law enforcement officers, black-only exclusivity isn’t being anti-white, just recognizing that participation by whites, a group that’s historically distressed blacks, would have a chilling effect in organizing to express their grievances.

This shouldn’t rule out useful coalitions with blended organizations, though not on the terms of whites, but first in a culture of free and open expression needed for a just society.