The City of El Paso has become adept at minimizing citizen obstruction of its pet projects. Citizen referendums are blocked via bureaucracy and through intimidation via litigation. Citizens have resorted to filing court cases to impede projects such as the arena. Proponents of pet projects like the arena use the ballot box to gather like-minded politicians to propel the pet projects through to the end. As I have discussed previously, those that come out and vote, for the most part, are voting for their paychecks and not for better governance. This last election has once again demonstrated that. Thus, the Duranguito neighborhood are banking on a lawsuit to stop the process.
Unfortunately, the lawsuit will not be successful because it is facing the insurmountable task of getting the judiciary to go against the government. I have written previously how the Texas judiciary will rule to protect the government from itself. Scandal is unsightly and everyone is at the taxpayers’ trough.
Remember the issue of the El Paso benefits for unmarried couples? It was wrapped around the notion of same-sex equality. However you feel about the issue, John Cook, who was sued by Tom Brown over the issue of citizens organizing to project their needs upon the government, was victorious at the end. Cook ultimately prevailed in a Texas court. Cook won almost half-a-million dollars from Brown over the issue of religious involvement in politics. This, in spite of, the Texas Ethics Commission and the Attorney General opining that Tom Brown did not violate the election laws, yet the court ruled otherwise. Interestingly, Donald Trump signed an executive order last week that relaxes IRS rules on the ability of churches to inject themselves into political matters.
Cook and his legal team had argued that the Brown case was about enforcing Texas laws against Texas corporations funding political initiatives and not about first amendment rights. But the issue was about the first amendment rights of the parishioners and about the right of citizens to petition their government. Yet, Texas impedes that process through the judiciary.
(Note: I am vehemently opposed to Church involvement in political matters because I have seen what it has done to México over the years. I am just pointing out the facts about this issue. I will have posts in the future about the dangers of the Church in political activities.)
Reasonable people generally agree that the Texas law prohibiting corporations from funding political campaigns or issues is wrong, not in the sense of fairness but in the sense that it makes no sense when the supreme court has ruled against such laws. Citizens United v. FEC conclusively prohibited the government from limiting the free speech rights of corporations, including those funding free speech initiatives. Trump has also recently relaxed the prohibition through the IRS. Yet the Texas law remains in place.
Brown’s church, a nonprofit, was forced to pay almost half-a-million dollars because of their attempt to mobilize the electorate to place limits on government officials to enact legislation contrary to their belief system. They did what corporations across the nation do through lobbyists every day, yet they paid a heavy price for it.
Part of the problem with El Pasoans seeking equity in access to governance is that each faction has their pet project and have no desire to work for the underlining issue because someone else’s pet project is not theirs. For example, many opposed Tom Brown’s issue because it involves limiting a group’s ability to equity but the underlining issue in Cook versus Brown was the citizen’s right to petition their government. Many of those arguing for the right to stop the arena or the destruction of Duranguito either applauded Brown’s demise at the court or would rather have nothing to do with it.
I have experienced this myself when I decided to expose Donald Trump’s hypocrisy about México. Many longtime readers and supporters grew angry at me because of it and stopped supporting my initiative to force better governance. We may disagree about Trump but my underlining effort to expose corruption and political hypocrisy remains. Likewise, I disagree with Brown’s congregation but I understand that the issue was about citizens’ right to petition their government.
Because of the immovable mentality of: it is my way or not at all, the citizens remain divided while the government remains united. Like with those of us looking for better governance, there are many political factions in political circles, but when it comes to impeding citizen initiatives they keep a united front.
To understand the issue better consider that the City of El Paso uses your tax dollars to defend themselves in court, yet you, the taxpayer is legally prohibited from organizing yourselves through a likely avenue – a nonprofit and advocate for your beliefs. In other words, the government, in this case, the City of El Paso uses your money to limit your ability to legislate your own beliefs.
That is the underlining issue of the case between John Cook and Tom Brown. Cook used the law that was generally discredited to shut down Tom Brown and intimidate future recall petitions against elected officials.
The City of El Paso knows this full well and has used it previously and is using it now – the declaratory filing.
The declaratory ruling is what the City needs to pursue the arena project. Without it, the City will have a difficult time raising the necessary funds by floating municipal bonds to fund the arena. You see, without the declaratory ruling, the City has a legal cloud hanging over the bonds that would result in higher interest rates or that would cause investors’ concern over giving money to the bonds. A legal filing could also temporarily restrain the city from floating the bonds and thus stopping the project.
In seeking a declaratory judgement, the City of El Paso is short-circuiting the citizens right to petition their government. We’ve been down this road before. Remember the ballpark fiasco?
The City of El Paso went to Austin and filed a court case asking for a declaratory judgment affirming the City’s right to continue to displace people, build and fund the ballpark. Judge Tim Sulak ruled that the City was right to demolish city hall and float the municipal bonds to fund the ballpark debacle. He issued a legal ruling articulating this.
Sulak then put a price tag on how much the voters of El Paso had to pay if they disagreed with the ruling – one million dollars. The ruling ordered that if anyone wanted to appeal the ruling they first had to get a surety bond for one million dollars. How many of you have a million bucks to invest in enforcing the notion that the citizens have a say in governance? Not many and thus the ballpark was built even though we now know that much subterfuge was used to build it via taxpayer dollars.
Last week, the City of El Paso filed a similar court case, asking for a Declaratory Judgment from an Austin judge for the arena project downtown. The City is asking a judge to stop any opposition to the downtown arena and allow it to proceed with selling the bonds to fund it.
As you can see from the previous examples I shared with you, the Austin judge is likely to rule in favor of the City. He will likely do so because Texas judges traditionally rule in favor of the governments’ activities regardless of the fairness of it or whether the law contradicts the rulings at the federal levels.
With a Declaratory Ruling in hand, there is nothing that the voters of El Paso can do to stop the destruction of Duranguito nor the funding of the arena making the issue a fait accompli.
There are many citizen activists in El Paso but not many who are willing to set aside differences in ideology to work together. Sometimes, the activist themselves work in opposition to the other. They short circuit each other while the politicos set aside their differences to stymie your right to governing yourselves. Look around you and you will clearly see this dynamic at play.
Clearly, nothing has changed in El Paso politics.