Thursday, June 21, 2018

#atxcouncil: Casar's so-called "Freedom City" plan isn't a big deal (Republican hysteria notwithstanding)


"He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own
Is like one who takes a dog by the ears."
Proverbs 26:17

Last week, while we were at convention, council passed a largely symbolic measure:
Amid the controversy over sanctuary cities, Austin this month took its fight against strict immigration law enforcement a step further by declaring itself to be the first “freedom city” in Texas. City Council members unanimously passed two resolutions last week that will restrict police attempts to question immigrants about their status and curtail arrests for nonviolent crimes.

One of the new city resolutions requires officers who question immigrants about status to also say that their questions about immigration need not be answered. The other resolution directs police to avoid arrests for misdemeanors, including those for smoking marijuana, having drug paraphernalia, and taking part in petty theft — crimes that city data shows frequently end in arrests of black and Latino residents.

....

“Poor people of color in our city are over-punished and over-incarcerated,” said Greg Casar, an Austin City Councilman who pushed for the resolutions. “If people are being arrested less, we can also prevent people from being put in the deportation pipeline.”

“We found that black and Latino residents comprised 75% of discretionary arrests for driving with licenses invalid in the city even though they are 45% of the population of the city,” Casar said. “Black residents are seven times more likely to be arrested for low-level marijuana violations despite having comparable rates of usage of marijuana to white residents.”

Casar said the new rules could prevent up to 1,000 low-level arrests each year. Austin police arrest around 30,000 people a year.
The new policy has two parts: An immigration component and a marijuana component.

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On immigration: The new policy stays well within the legal constraints of SB 4.  All the policy requires is that, if an APD officer wants to pursue a line of questioning related to federal immigration issues, the officer has to inform the suspect that the suspect has the right to remain silent.  That's it.

Guess what?!?  Under the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Miranda v. Arizona, EVERY.  SINGLE.  PERSON. arrested in the United States is already informed of their right to remain silent.  All the City of Austin's new policy states is that, if an APD officer wants to pursue immigration related questioning, the suspect must be "Miranadized" twice.

That's it.

[Confession: As someone who locks wits with Greg Casar on a fairly regular basis, we're impressed with how he's trolling the intent SB 4 while staying well within SB 4's letter.]

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On marijuana: The new policy does nothing but discourage arrests for low level possession offenses (aka. decriminalization).

Well...guess who just endorsed marijuana decriminalization?!?

From the 2018 Platform of the Republican Party of Texas, Plank 107:
Civil Penalty: We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time.
Soo...the City of Austin just adopted a policy that's consistent with the platform the Republican Party of Texas adopted last week.

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Nevertheless, hysteria:



You're joking, right?!?

The city's new policy may or may not be wise, but the notion that it's a threat to public safety is silly.

Austin Texas is one of the safest cities in the country.  Despite having the fifth largest population in Texas, we're #17 in crime.  The notion that "double-mirandizing" immigration suspects and de-prioritizing marijuana arrests will change that reality is, once again, silly.

But what do we know?!?  We only live in a 70% Hispanic neighborhood in East Austin....

Don't get us started on the ridiculous e-mails we've received.

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It's also worth pointing out that we vetted this proposal two weeks ago.  We didn't see anything (major) wrong with it then, and none of the silliness we've seen since then changes our mind.  But nice of the rest of y'all to belatedly figure out this was happening.

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Then there's the fact that, by reducing the number of arrests, the new policy might actually save money.

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Bottom Line: Priorities people.... 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

#TXLEGE: Following Uresti resignation, Abbott announces QUICK Special Election to fill vacancy


"He who gathers in summer is a wise son;
He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame."
Proverbs 10:5

That didn't take long:
Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled a July 31 special election to replace state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio.

Uresti announced his resignation Monday, four months after he was found guilty of 11 felonies. The resignation is effective Thursday.

The filing deadline for the special election is Monday, and early voting will start July 16, according to Abbott's proclamation. The document also outlines Abbott's reasoning for calling what is known as an emergency special election, noting Uresti's District 19 has been "without effective representation" for over a year due to his legal troubles and it is important to fill the seat as soon as possible.

....

At least two Democrats are already running to finish Uresti's term, which ends in 2021: former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine and state Rep. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio. Pete Flores, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Uresti in 2016, has also announced a special election run.
Here's the thing: While this district is rooted in San Antonio, it extends WAY out into West Texas.  This is not friendly territory for the Democrat's positions on guns and babies.  In a special election, a disciplined Republican campaign can win.

[Note: There's a reason why, regardless of the degree to which he was a scumbag, Uresti tended to vote somewhat more conservative than other Democrats.]

Speaking of the Republican, meet Pete Flores:
Pete Flores is running for Texas Senate District 19, which is composed of all or parts of 17 counties running from Bexar west to Brewster and encompassing a long stretch of border with Mexico.

A former leader of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s statewide law enforcement division with strong ties to South and West Texas, Flores sees the Texas State Senate as another way he can serve the region.

“I would bring strong managerial, budgetary, governance and leadership experience to the Texas Senate having been responsible for $60-million budgets, managed more than two dozen field offices, and supervised more than 127 civilian employees and nearly 532 commissioned officers,” Flores said.

As Colonel Game Warden for Texas Parks and Wildlife, Flores built a strong reputation for implementing community-based law enforcement protocols and successfully coordinating law enforcement operations with local, state and federal law enforcement officials.
[Note: You can read the rest of Pete Flores' bio here.]

Bottom Line: In their current form, the Democrats are too liberal for this part of the state; it'll be interesting to see if the Republicans can capitalize.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The nastiest, most negative, campaign since Dewhurst


"A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies shall perish."
Proverbs 19:9

Before we leave the RPT convention, one final point deserves discussion: The noxious vindictiveness of Cindy Crocker Asche's campaign.

Asche's campaign was never about anything more than power for the sake of power.  There's an entrenched group that's been running this state for a long, long, time.  They're losing power.  They don't want to give it up.

Cindy Crocker Asche was their chosen vehicle.

Of course, you can't run a campaign on your desire to contain power within a small clique.  So they went with specious character attacks.  Securities fraud!  Accounting irregularities!  James Dickey fired incompetent people on staff!  It was a farce, and everyone knew it was a farce (some people played along with the farce for the sake of power).  Friday afternoon's stunt was merely the icing on the cake.

But, of course, we've seen this before.

In 2012 and 2014, everybody knew that David Dewhurst was interested in nothing more than power for the sake of power.  So Dewhurst was losing.  So Dewhurst attacked.  Ted Cruz is a Red Chinese Tire Manufacturer!  Dan Patrick spent time in a mental institution!  You know the results.  That Dewhurst got ripped off by his campaign consultants was the icing on the cake.

Bottom Line: Good riddance to both....

Monday, June 18, 2018

#RPTCon18: Upon further consideration, the adopted language on Plank 187 is dangerous


"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

We said our piece about the sexual harassment plank on Saturday night.  We stand by EVERY.  SINGLE.  WORD. of that piece.  But, having had a few days to digest event, the language that was adopted is REALLY problematic.

To review:
Sexual Harassment: RPT supports a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.
The problem with that statement is that it doesn't define the phrases "zero tolerance" or "sexual harassment."  It also doesn't contain the phrase "due process."  That's trouble.

The ironic thing is that the only objection raised during floor debate concerned bad Title IX investigations.  NEWSFLASH: Vague language like what the delegates actually approved is HOW YOU GET BAD TITLE IX INVESTIGATIONS.  Of course, our amendment would have fixed that....

The good news, of course, is that the RPT staff has sense.  They won't take that language to the places it could go.  But if you had language like that in the wrong hands....

Bottom Line: Stupid, unforced, error.

#RPTCon18: Final Legislative Priorities


"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Luke 12:34

The final legislative priorities have been posted.

It was an very interesting, intense process.  The debates were grueling.  The priorities didn't turn out exactly how this author would have written them, but within each item there are issues which this author supports very strongly.

Mostly, we're just happy our taxpayer-funded lobbying stuff sailed through with flying colors.

A note for future conventions: We really should have seven priorities instead of five.

Thank you to all the members of the committee.  We had some contentious discussions about details, but in a broad sense we were pulling in the same direction.  You only need to look at what happened with the platform to see how it could have gone differently.

An extra special, super-duper, THANK YOU to our fantastic committee chair Amy Clark.  Amy ran an open, fair, process that allowed all sides to be heard while still keeping us focused and on-task.  We look forward to the reunion next session.

Without further ado:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

#RPTCon18: A DEVASTATING end to an otherwise great Convention


"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

[Note: You can read Olivia Messer's original 2013 piece in the Texas Observer here.  You can read her 2017 reports here and here.  You can read the Texas Tribune's reporting on the subject here.  You can read the Austin Chronicle's reporting on the subject here.]

We still can't believe that it happened.

Assuming it survived the vote by the delegates, we expect plank 187 of the 2018 Republican party of Texas platform to read:
Sexual Harassment: RPT supports a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.
The good news: This is the first time in history the RPT platform has addressed it.

The bad news: It's a weak, toothless, unenforceable position.  It doesn't mention why the plank is in there in the first place.  It's the Texas Alliance for "Life" of sexual misconduct planks.

We moved to amend the plank to instead read:
Sexual Misconduct:  RPT supports a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual misconduct in the Texas Legislature.  We furthermore call upon the Legislature to create a credible system of due process to adjudicate complaints within two weeks.  In the event complaints are found to be valid, we call upon the legislature to create tangible penalties including, but not limited to, loss of committee chairmanship and dismissal.
Our amendment was designed to give teeth to the existing language.

Unfortunately, and inexplicably, the delegates voted it down.  It wasn't close.  Two thirds/one third.

[Note (11:48 pm): We're trying to edit this post to get it up before midnight...and we still can't believe we read that last paragraph.]
.
We don't get it.

The Texas Legislature is a disgusting cesspool.  Whatever the excesses of the national "hashtagMeToo" movement, the Texas Legislature is a legit caseThe Texas Legislature is Harvey Weinstein, not Aziz Ansari.

And, to be honest, some of the behavior we saw the past few days confirmed our worst fears.

We saw a Texas house Committee Chairman get into an elevator at one in the morning with a woman who wasn't his wife.  We saw another member of the Texas house at the hotel bar gettin' real grabby with any hot young thing that would move.  By themselves, neither is proof of anything...but let's just say that the circumstantial evidence is strong.

Also, this is not one of those "allegedly" cases.  We saw this with our own eyes.  We dare either of the legislators in question to sue this author.  We have witnesses.

[Note: We wanted to get video, but there was no way to film in a way that wouldn't have been obvious.]

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The worst part is that the objections during floor debate didn't make sense.

One person spoke against who he made vague comments about political correctness and lack of due process in Title IX investigations.

Here's the thing: WE.  LITERALLY.  INCLUDED.  THE.  PHRASE.  DUE.  PROCESS.  IN.  OUR.  AMENDMENT.  LANGUAGE.

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In hindsight, our biggest mistake was not taking the time to educate the delegates (we should have literally used the phrases "adultery" and "prostitution").  There was limited time to discuss platform amendments. We were trying to be a team player.  We were trying tosave time.  We assumed that if we mentioned Olivia Messer by name, delegates would take our word for it and do their own research later.

We all know what they say about the word "assume."

Our other mistake was not forcing a discussion on this topic in the legislative priorities committee.  To be honest, the taxpayer funded lobbying/union dues stuff was going so well that we didn't want to annoy the committee by asking for more.  We assumed we could get the language we wanted in the platform, and that that would be good enough.

Once again, everybody knows what they say about the word "assume."

[Note for future legislative priorities committees: If we had had seven legislative priorities to work with, instead of five, this author wouldn't have felt that pushing this issue would be perceived as selfish.]

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Note to this website's left-of-center readers: The real reason for today's result was the backlash to the national "hashtagMeToo" movement.  They went too far.  And, obviously, the results speak for themselves.

Imagine a world where the Republican Party of Texas adopts strong language condemning sexual misconduct by elected officials...and know that the only reason we're not currently living in that world is because an ambitious feminist blogger went after Aziz Ansari.

[Second note for this website's left-of-center readers: Even though RPT just face-planted on cleaning up the state legislature, given the cases of Joe Barton and Blake Farenthold, RPT still has the strongest record of ANY state level political party in the country at getting our own elected officials to leave office once the evidence becomes undeniable.]

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Note for this website's right-of-center readers: You don't understand the opportunity you just missed.

The saddest part is that we just re-read our blog post from the day Joe Barton left office.

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Republicans like to waste time holding pointless meetings about "millennial outreach."

News Flash MORONS:  THE.  AMENDMENT.  LANGUAGE.  WAS.  AN.  ACT.  OF. MILLENNIAL. OUTREACH.

And you just whiffed.

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Bottom LIne: A very small improvement on the status quo...but it could have been so much more.

Friday, June 15, 2018

#RPTCon18: How to ACTUALLY prevent school shootings

Ken Paxton Speaking

"Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
Nehemiah 4:18

We attended this afternoon's RPT convention event with Gun Owners of America concerning the Second Amendment and the recent round of so-called "school shootings."

The Texas house Freedom Caucus opened the discussion with a legislative update on Constitutional Carry.  The short version is that a lot of politics happened last session.  Matt Schafer also pointed out that firearms regulations are embedded all over Texas' various codes, so successfully eliminating them is more complicated than it looks.  Schaefer also pointed out that firearms restrictions leave women in bad relationships vulnerable to the whims of their partners.

Attorney General Paxton made the most interesting remarks.  Paxton discussed how Israel does school safety better than any other country.  During the 1970's following various "Palestinian" attacks on innocent schoolchildren, Israel implemented measures to assure competent armed guards are stationed at every school.  Israel also allows armed teachers in classrooms.  Following the implementation of these measure, Israel hasn't seen an active shooter event in a school setting in over 40 years.

We've been meaning to point out that General Paxton is the only person talking sense about school security for a few weeks; we're glad to have this opportunity.

Ted Cruz was scheduled to speak, but got stuck in D.C.  His father spoke in the Senator's stead.  Rafael Cruz explained how his experience in Cuba illustrates how an armed citizenry is necessary.  Rafael Cruz also pointed out that Switzerland requires it's population to be armed and that it hasn't been invaded in centuries.

Chip Roy was the final speaker.  Roy discussed his recent experience at his children's school during the Austin bombings.  Roy pointed out how the Southwest Austin bombing happened near the school.  During the next several days, parents fanned out near campus to protect the students.  Roy discussed how this is the proper response to safety threats AND how gun regulations wouldn't have made a difference in this situation.  Roy also pointed out that the odds of a child being killed in school are 1 in 614 million.  [Disclosure: Chip Roy and this author have mutual friends whose children attend the school in question.]

Bottom Line:  Informative event.