Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Tim O’Hare

Time for a change in Farmers Branch

Good riddance.

Farmers Branch Mayor Tim O’Hare announced this morning that he will not seek re-election in this suburb that gained national fame for its stance on illegal immigration.

[…]

O’Hare did not endorse any candidates for mayor but attending his news conference this morning were former city council members Charlie Bird and Bill Glancy. Both men are believed to be considering a bid for the mayoral perch.

As for O’Hare’s future political plans, he said “I’ve followed politics since I was a teen-ager. Politics is something that interests me.” But for the immediate future, the mayor said he wanted to focus on raising a family and enlarging it.

I sincerely hope that the next Mayor of Farmers Branch will not be a xenophobic fearmongerer. I don’t expect that to happen, unfortunately, but I hope so anyway.

Farmers Branch prepares to waste more money

It sure must be nice to have all these taxpayer dollars to spend on such frivolities.

[Farmers Branch] plans to appeal a court ruling against its ordinance, which would prevent landlords from renting houses or apartments to illegal immigrants — and it hopes to serve as an example to other communities trying to deal with illegal immigration.

“Farmers Branch is a town of law and order … a patriotic, American-loving town,” Mayor Tim O’Hare said. “I think this is important for America. It’s important to show other cities and towns that you can make a difference, you can stand up for what’s right.”

They’ve lost every court battle so far, while spending millions of dollars for the privilege of having their ordinances declared unconstitutional. And those costs keep going up.

A second team of lawyers submitted their legal fees and costs to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas shortly before midnight Monday The team consists of the ACLU of Texas, the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Earlier this month, the Bickel & Brewer Storefront law firm submitted a legal bill of $850,000. The two legal teams are linked by the consolidation of suits and their combined bill submitted to the court as the winning party is now nearly $2 million.

Farmers Branch Mayor Tim O’Hare called the legal bills submitted to the court “a joke.” He added, “When we win at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which I believe we will, we won’t pay one nickel of this.”

Did I mention that they’ve lost every step of the way so far? O’Hare is actually talking about the city’s reserve funds in that story, which is just beyond crazy. I suppose some people just have to learn these things the hard way.

Farmers Branch loses in court yet again

Yet another loss in court for the city of Farmers Branch and its efforts to make apartment owners check potential renters’ immigration status.

The City of Farmers Branch enacted ordinance 2952 in 2008 but today’s decision in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Texas blocks the city from enforcing the ordinance.

“The Court resoundingly rejected the City’s claim that it had the authority to regulate the residence of noncitizens within its borders,” said the Texas American Civil Liberties Union in a press release. The ACLU, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), filed suit on behalf of a group of Farmers Branch landlords and tenants. “Noting that the City Building Inspector would be charged with interpreting and applying immigration information to prospective tenants, the court concluded that Ordinance 2952 ‘is an invalid regulation of immigration,’” added the ACLU’s statement.

In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle ruled: “Ordinance 2952 is a regulation of immigration and is preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution because the authority to regulate immigration is exclusively a federal power.”

Judge Boyle had originally issued an injunction against Farmers Branch back in 2008, shortly after the suit was filed.

Nina Perales, MALDEF’s Regional Counsel in San Antonio, said she wouldn’t be surprised if the city appealed the ruling, but indicated Farmers Branch taxpayers might speak out against such an expensive effort.

“Losing defendants often talk about appeals on the day the decision comes down,” she said. “The people of Farmers Branch have to decide whether they are going to continue to throw money away on this. The city needs its resources for better purposes.”

Farmers Branch has already spent millions trying to enact these “illegal ordinances” she added, and expected at some point the “folks have to say, ‘Stop.’”

They’ve spent three point two million, according to the DMN. Which didn’t stop their mayor from vowing to appeal. Honestly, by now it probably would have been cheaper to offer to pay the moving expenses of everyone they wanted to evict from town. Too late for that, I guess.

Farmers Branch single member Council district lawsuit appealed to SCOTUS

A lawsuit on behalf of three Hispanic plaintiffs in Farmers Branch to force the creation of single-member City Council districts, which was filed last April and dismissed in November, will be appealed to the Supreme Court after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their argument.

Valentine Reyes, Irene Gonzalez and Gary F. Garcia alleged the at-large City Council system in Farmers Branch diluted minority votes. They wanted to create single-member districts, in which a council member is elected to represent a specific section of the city.

Their attorneys argued before a federal court in Dallas that Hispanic citizens of voting age would form a majority of the voters in one of the proposed districts. On appeal, they contended that citizenship wasn’t a requirement in showing Latinos of voting age would make up the majority in the proposed district.

A three-judge panel at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument. In a ruling Tuesday, the New Orleans-based panel insisted that the number of minorities of voting age in a proposed district must be citizens and needed to account for a majority of the total population of the district’s voting-age citizens.

“That’s really a change of how voting rights law has been interpreted in the past and would make a very bad precedent if it was adopted,” Garcia said.

Hmm. I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that the Census counts state prison inmates as residents of whatever county the prison happens to be in, and that this is used for the apportionment of legislative and Congressional districts, even though these prisoners may not have otherwise lived in that county and certainly can’t vote there. As such, I don’t buy the Court’s ruling – it strikes me as inconsistent with other established practices. Be that as it may, I would not hold out any hope for the Supreme Court to do anything about it. Not this Court, anyway.

It’s ironic that this ruling comes down at the same time as the final touches are being put on the court ruling that required the city of Irving to create single member Council districts. Makes you wonder why one city is not like the other.

On a side note, the nature of Farmers Branch’s City Council may not be changing, but that doesn’t mean that its politics are the same as it ever was. Consider this recent exchange in a debate over allowing expanded alcohol sales.

The measure to permit alcohol sales in a city known for its tight controls inspired contentious debate among residents and even a City Council that frequently votes as a bloc.

The new ordinance allows for the sale of alcohol at events in city parks by vendors or contractors who show they have liability insurance and a license with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The new ordinance covers beer, wine and even frozen margaritas.

After residents took to the podium, telephones and e-mail in opposition, Mayor Tim O’Hare said he opposed the measure because “a majority of our residents do not want this.”

O’Hare likened a yes vote to Washington politicians who push measures and “don’t listen to the people.”

Councilman David Koch took offense. “I think what you said at the end is not appropriate,” Koch said.

“Your attack at me is inappropriate,” O’Hare responded.

“I have the right to express my opinion after you express your opinion,” Koch retorted.

This was flagged for me by the proprietor of the DARE to LIVE in Farmers Branch blog – which you should be reading for a good perspective on that Dallas suburb – who says it’s “the first time I’ve heard of City Council members actually opposing the Mayor!” O’Hare, you may recall, is the guy who spearheaded the successful referendum to ban apartments from renting to undocumented immigrants; that ordinance, and a stricter one that preceded it, have been struck down or restrained by the courts as legal fees and other costs mount. Anything that helps knock O’Hare down a peg or two is fine by me.

Now how much would you pay to get rid of those immigrants?

They sure do seem to like flushing their money away in Farmers Branch.

The Farmers Branch City Council will spend nearly a half-million dollars more to cover the cost of legal fees incurred by two groups that have challenged the city’s ordinances on illegal immigration.

Since 2006 to Tuesday’s council decision, the city has spent about $2 million on legal fees related to illegal immigration.

Mayor Tim O’Hare and attorney Pete Smith declined to comment on the mediated settlement of $250,000 with the Villas at Parkside Partners and $220,000 with Alfredo Vasquez and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We are grateful to have settled the matter of attorneys’ fees in our first case against the city of Farmers Branch. Now we can concentrate on current litigation,” said Lisa Graybill, legal director of the ACLU of Texas.

Note that these fees are from the lawsuit that resulted from the original Farmers Branch ordinance, Ordinance 2903, which was permanently struck down in May and for which the final settlement was reached in August. There is a separate lawsuit for the successor to this ordinance, Ordinance 2952, for which a temporary injunction was issued in September. When Farmers Branch loses that suit, and the judge in question, the same one for 2903, has said he’d be inclined to strike this one down as well, they’ll be on the hook for more fees. And there’s yet another suit stemming from open records requests for the invoices associated with all these bills. At this rate, they may top $5 million spent on this utter folly.

What’s funny about this is that the same type of people who bitch and moan about every penny the city of Houston wants to spend on this program or that seem to be just fine with Farmers Branch spending its money in this fashion. I guess it’s all a matter of what your priorities are.