January 21, 2007
Farmer's Branch backs down


Farmers Branch City Council on Monday is expected to repeal the city's litigation-inducing ban on renting apartments to illegal immigrants and will consider a revised ordinance that will put the matter to a vote in May.

The council in this north Dallas suburb ordered the city attorney to draft the new ordinance, which was expected to be posted on the city Web site later today.

Council members voted in November to require apartment landlords to check the citizenship or legal status of all occupants and spelled out fines of up to $500 per day. Since then, four lawsuits have been filed and residents submitted a petition forcing a referendum on the ban in May.

Last week, state District Judge Bruce Priddy issued a temporary injunction that blocked the ordinance from taking effect as scheduled on Jan. 12.

In a letter submitted in that case Thursday, Farmers Branch City Secretary Cindee Peters said the City Council agreed to repeal the rental ban and adopt "revised apartment complex licensing standards regarding citizenship and/or immigration certification requirements."

The new ordinance, if adopted Monday, would call for a voluntary referendum May 12 and would not go into effect until May 22 if approved by voters, the letter states.

"They're waving the white flag," said Bill Brewer, a Dallas attorney who filed suit on behalf of a Farmers Branch resident alleging the City Council violated several provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act when it passed the rental ban.

"They didn't get it wrong by a little. They got it wrong by a lot," Brewer said.

He said it appears the city concluded the judge would have enjoined the city from enforcing the rental ban at an upcoming hearing.

"They were in the same hearings I was and it was going very badly for them. They decided to back off and put it to the voters," Brewer said.

Not perfect, since it sounds like they could still do something stupid enough to get them successfully sued, but better. Maybe next time they'll think a bit more carefully about the potential consequences of their actions before they jump off the deep end. Link via Blue Bayou, who has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 21, 2007 to National news