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Ana Reyes

Farmers Branch still hasn’t learned

There’s stubborn, there’s mulishly stubborn, and then there’s Farmers Branch.

When will they learn?

The City Council is not ready to give up its fight to ban immigrants in the U.S. illegally from renting in the city.

The council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court its rental ordinance’s latest failure in court.

The chamber audience erupted in applause — with some jumping from their seats — following the vote.

Council members Jeff Fuller, Ben Robinson and Harold Froehlich voted to appeal. Ana Reyes and Kirk Connally voted against it.

Before the vote, the city’s outside attorney, Michael Jung, agreed to handle the appeal at no cost, at Fuller’s request. Fuller noted that $4 million had already been paid to Jung and his Strasburger & Price law firm.

“I want to stop spending,” Fuller said.

The fight has cost the city about $6 million in legal fees for court suits, and more than $2 million in bills were expected to be presented to the courts for the city to pay by the law firms that had prevailed against the city. But the decision to appeal puts that on hold, pending the outcome by the nation’s highest court.

William A. Brewer III, partner at Bickel & Brewer Storefront and counsel for some of the plaintiffs, said in a prepared statement that the City Council “seems incapable of reading the handwriting on the wall — this ordinance is unconstitutional.”

“It is unfortunate that the Farmers Branch City Council has decided to continue a pursuit that many view as costly and ill-advised.”

Some lessons just have to be learned the hard way. It was just a month ago that the Fifth Circuit spiked the latest appeal from Farmers Branch, this time with the full court reconsidering the original three-judge panel ruling in light of the SCOTUS decision on Arizona’s “papers, please” law. I have no idea why Farmers Branch City Council think SCOTUS might be willing to take this question up again, but I suppose it at least offers them the opportunity to inconvenience the law firm that’s beaten them like a pinata every step of the way. The good news is that the FB Council is now 40% less stupid with the addition of Ana Reyes and Kirk Connally, but clearly there’s still work to do to bring them into the light.

Farmers Branch loses again

Same story, next chapter.

When will they learn?

The Farmers Branch ordinance barring people in the U.S. illegally from renting in the city is unconstitutional, an appeals court ruled for the second time Monday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the ordinance encroached on the federal government’s authority.

Monday’s decision ended the city’s second appeal to the court, which had upheld the lower court’s ruling last year.

The city asked for a rehearing after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of an Arizona law.

In its majority opinion Monday, the judges were critical of Farmers Branch’s ordinance, which would have required all renters to obtain licenses proving they were in the U.S. legally.

Judges also found fault with the city’s plan to fine or revoke the renters’ licenses of landlords who leased to immigrants without permits.

“The ordinance not only criminalizes occupancy of a rented apartment or single-family residence, but puts local officials in the impermissible position of arresting and detaining persons based on their immigration status without federal direction and supervision,” the court said.

Through May, the suburb of about 29,000 residents had spent roughly $6 million since 2006 on legal expenses related to its fight against illegal immigration.

The law firm that sued the city over the rental ordinance said it plans to submit additional bills to Farmers Branch that are likely to top $2 million.

See here for the previous update. I was a little nervous after the court ordered a review of the original ruling to take into account the SCOTUS decision on the Arizona “papers, please” law, but I’m glad to see that fear was unfounded. The question at this point is whether Farmers Branch will finally accept that it has learned a very expensive lesson and quit adding to the tab. It’s not yet clear what they will do, but at least now their City Council has a voice of reason on it.

Monday evening, [new Council member Ana] Reyes praised the appeals court’s decision on the rental ordinance and said she wanted the city to drop the issue.

“The anti-immigration ordinance was outside of our local jurisdiction,” she said. “It is unconstitutional. This issue has been extremely divisive and costly for the citizens of Farmers Branch. It’s now time to move forward and reinvest our residents’ hard-earned tax dollars back into our community.”

CM Reyes of course is the first Hispanic member of Farmers Branch’s City Council, elected after they lost a different lawsuit to enact single member districts. It will be completely fitting if that development finally leads to Farmers Branch being persuaded to quit illegally and expensively trying to persecute a segment of its population.

Getting out the “hard-to-motivate Latino vote” in Farmers Branch

Great story about Ana Reyes, the first Hispanic person elected to City Council in Farmers Branch, in the first election after a lawsuit forced the city to adopt single-member Council districts, and how she actually got elected.

CM Ana Reyes

“What happened here is what helped us get off the couch,” Ana Reyes said, inside a childhood home filled with landscape paintings by her father, Antonio.

Insult after insult hurled at Hispanics, from the ordinance to public taunts about catching “illegals,” would eventually lead to a campaign directive of “pound, pound, pound.”

That would be the sound the candidate and her campaign team made as they knocked multiple times on nearly every door in a newly carved City Council district, a so-called Hispanic opportunity district because of the concentration of U.S. citizens of voting age.

[…]

Ana Reyes, 39, credits her mother for demanding she attend council sessions in 2006.

But she said political consultant Jeff Dalton and his firm Democracy Toolbox propelled success forward.

“The Hispanic component of the vote has always been the brick wall,” said Dalton, who works exclusively for Democrats or in nonpartisan municipal elections.

In fact, in the 2012 presidential race, Hispanics punched way below their weight with a turnout of only 48 percent. The top-performing group, black voters, participated at a 66 percent rate, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau data.

The political strategist said he methodically plotted data on the likelihood of a Reyes vote on a scale of 1 to 5 through canvassing. At one point, Dalton’s data showed Reyes in a dead heat with her opponent, William Capener, a print shop manager with ties to the local tea party.

Canvassing intensified. Ana Reyes walked the entire District 1 three times, including on election day. Others followed in her steps until the nearly 1,800 voters in the district had received about a dozen visits.

“Her brother walked,” Dalton said. “Her sister walked. Her mother walked. There was an excitement level generated by that. It was like pound, pound, pound.”

Nadia Khan-Roberts, a Spanish teacher living in Farmers Branch, volunteered for the Reyes get-out-the-vote effort. One man told Khan-Roberts: “Todos estos politicos no hacen nada y ella va a ser lo mismo. All politicians do nothing, and she’ll be the same.”

Khan-Roberts countered, “With that attitude nothing will change. The baby that cries the loudest gets the milk.”

A prayer group of women dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe even met weekly at the local Mary Immaculate Catholic Church.

On May 11, Ana Reyes won with 62 percent of the vote. Dalton, the consultant, believes that half of the Hispanic vote was “low-propensity,” or hard to-budge, and hadn’t voted in more than one of the last five elections.

“Something special happened,” said Dalton, who wants to replicate the strategy on a larger scale.

See here for the background. I trust we all see the parallels between Reyes’ victory and the future success or failure of Battleground Texas. Good candidates, direct contact with voters, giving voters compelling reasons to vote that connect with their daily lives – it’s not rocket science, but it is hard work, and it’s going to be a long-term process. But victories build momentum, and they provide paths forward. What worked for Ana Reyes in Farmers Branch can and will work elsewhere, if we learn from her experience and apply those lessons to other races. And when someone tells you it can’t be done, point to Farmers Branch and Council Member Ana Reyes and tell them oh yes it can.

And then get back to work, because the fight isn’t over when the ballots are counted. The fight is just beginning.

During her 2013 campaign, on three occasions, motorists parked outside her home in a Valwood Parkway neighborhood where residents know each other’s cars.

Ana Reyes went outside to knock on the driver’s window and ask if she could help. He said he’d run out of gas, she said. She went to get a gas container, but when she returned the man was gone.

In another instance, she took a photo of the license plate, and the driver of that vehicle never returned.

But Ana Reyes said her experience “does not compare to what Elizabeth Villafranca and other Latino candidates experienced.”

Villafranca, a Farmers Branch restaurateur who ran for City Council in 2009, faced slurs and what she called stalking. Ruben Rendon, a school psychologist who ran for office in 2008, was called “an illegal.” Rendon, who was born in Texas, now says, “All of this was so stupid.”

Candidate Reyes visited with a Dallas County election manager to ask about harassment prevention. She found out the department’s responsibility was limited to a constricted perimeter near polling machines.

The campaign took its own action.

“We hired constables to make sure order was maintained,” she said. “We are not going to tolerate it anymore.”

[…]

Farmers Branch Mayor Bill Glancy said he hoped the new council members, who include Kirk Connally, a 73-year-old retiree who beat an incumbent, would want “good things for the city.”

But regarding Ana Reyes, he said, “You never know what someone is until they are in office. There is campaigning and then there is serving.”

Ana Reyes is now an elected official. That gives her power, but it doesn’t mean respect will follow. The appalling behavior that Reyes and those who went before her in Farmers Branch had to put up with isn’t going to just disappear, and neither will the people who exhibited such behavior. There will be plenty of people rooting for her to fail, and working to undermine her. If Mayor Glancy’s attitude is any indication, some of those people will be her colleagues. Ana Reyes made history by winning this race, but there’s a lot more of the story to be written.

Ana Reyes makes history in Farmers Branch

I didn’t pay much attention to Saturday’s elections, since there was nothing on the ballot for me and there were few races of interest around the state. One place where there were races worth watching was in Farmers Branch, and the news from there was excellent.

CM Ana Reyes

Ana Reyes became the first Hispanic to win a seat on the Farmers Branch City Council in the new District 1 after historic single-member district balloting forced on the city by a federal judge. The 39-year-old Reyes maintained her 2-to-1 ratio in balloting throughout the night.

Reyes, the district manager of state Rep. Rafael Anchía, beat 48-year-old William Capener, a print shop manager with Tea Party ties.

In another upset, incumbent David Koch, a 51-year-old attorney, lost his re-election bid to 73-year-old Kirk Connally, a retiree who had served on the planning and zoning board for years. Koch fought hard against the voting rights charges and led an effort to appeal the lower court judge’s order. Connally had said he was fed up with all the spending on litigation.

“I’m excited and excited about Kirk Connally’s win as well,” Reyes said in a phone interview. “Together, we can do great things and move forward.”

Single-member districts generally make it easier for minorities to gain political position in venues where there’s been polarization in vote patterns. Voting rights suits have increased in North Texas as Latinos challenge governments with at-large electoral systems that result in all-white city councils and school boards.

The Justice Department sent election monitors to the city on Saturday — for their fourth poll watch since 2007.

Farmers Branch, a suburb of 29,000, has been a fount for litigation since 2006 when it passed an ordinance to bar immigrants in the U.S. illegally from rental housing. The measure led to shouting matches inside and outside of council sessions and a chain of litigation that has cost the city nearly $6 million. A federal judge ruled the latest version of the rental ordinance was unconstitutional and it has yet to be enforced. The ordinance is on appeal.

The acrimony seeded Reyes’ interest in politics in Farmers Branch, where she has lived nearly all her life. She is the daughter of two immigrants from Mexico. The naturalized citizens, Antonio and Maria Reyes, voted for their daughter in the historic election. They were also two of the ten plaintiffs that sued the city of Farmers Branch.

Saturday night, Maria Reyes said she was “very content” with election results. She never hesitated in being a part of the civil rights suit, she said. “We had no representation and now we do.”

Reyes’s campaign treasurer was Amelia Baladez, another of the plaintiffs in the voting rights suit. One of her biggest donors was Bill Brewer, a Dallas corporate attorney whose pro-bono affiliate launched the successful suit against the city of Farmers Branch. The firm, the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, also sued the city over the rental ordinance, inspiring one councilman to criticize the law firm for “bullying.”

[Saturday night], Brewer said, “Farmers Branch is so obviously polarized in voting among the races. It was a suit that needed to be brought. She is going to be great councilwoman.”

BOR had a preview of the race and a brief chat with CM-elect Reyes that you should read. Farmers Branch has been a cesspool of racism and xenophobia these past few years, spending millions of dollars in pointless efforts to punish people who committed no crime. The elections of Reyes and Connally are the first step towards draining that swamp and getting Farmers Branch back on the road to productivity and good stewardship of its resources. Congratulations to Ana Reyes and Kirk Connally, and best of luck to both of you on Farmers Branch City Council.