Fifteen Stooges

The Dallas City Council does a comedy campaign for its critics

Plus, they're giving me heartburn. I feel their pain. I know a little more than I did a week or so ago about the support for this proposal. Next month when Blackwood is forced to lift her stubborn veil of secrecy, you're going to see a lot of early support from hugely wealthy arch-conservatives whose other great accomplishments in life have included the Swift Boat Veterans crusade and a campaign two years ago accusing moderate Republicans of "promoting the homosexual agenda."

Not too close to my own point of view. But my point of view doesn't necessarily count on the question of petition and referendum in Texas. We will find out in the end that Blackwood and her supporters were pretty scrupulous about making sure their campaign fell within the letter of the law.

Maxine Thornton-Reese. Oh, my goodness. I've bitten my tongue long enough about her. Council member Thornton-Reese was upset to learn that very few of the signatures were accompanied by voter registration numbers.

Johnson explained several times that the Supreme Court has ruled there is no requirement for voter registration numbers. If the city secretary can check the voting status of the signer from other information on the petition, that's enough.

Thornton-Reese asked if the council could require the numbers anyway, thereby invalidating almost all of the signatures and...heh-heh...killing the election.

Johnson answered, "If we were, Dr. Reese, not to follow what the Supreme Court has said that we have to do, we will get challenged, and we won't be able to prevail."

Run it down: It's against the law. If we do it, we'll get caught. We will be sued. We will lose. I don't know how much more emphatic it could be. But it wasn't enough for Thornton-Reese. She wanted to know if somehow the statistical sampling could be used as an excuse for requiring the voter registration numbers in spite of the Supreme Court.

Yeah, I know. Pardon me while I turn my head around 360 degrees. But I think that's what she was saying. She wanted to insist that all of the lines on the petitions be filled out, including the space for voter registration number. The exact tape-recorded quote:

"But either they can sample and let them all be there," she said, "but not sampling and still not let them all be there. The petition, when they check all of those, and they did not have all of those, so they're not checking each and every one of those, and that's what makes the difference.

"When you're sampling, other times when you sample the referendum, did they have all the lines filled in? That's what I'm saying. They either have to have the lines filled in, if they're going to do sampling, or if they're going to check every one of them, maybe it would do that."

I'm sitting out there just squeezing my brain trying to follow this, but it's like somebody is twirling the dial back and forth on an AM radio. I worry that when I begin to find meaning, then I truly will be lost.

But she was not the corker. The corker, for me, was District 14 (Royal and Marsh area) council member Mitchell Rasansky, who gave the lawyers a nasty tongue-lashing for not having anticipated all of these questions before the meeting so that they could have been better prepared to answer them.

"I am just a little upset," Rasansky said. "These are questions you should have had your staff look into and be prepared for us."

How can you anticipate questions this dumb? Hey, speaking of which, here's my own strategy: The proposition is all about changing the form of government in the city of Dallas,right? So: We wait until the week before the election. Then we change the name of the city to El Perro Amarillo! The referendum is invalidated! Huh? What about it? Hey, city attorney: Anticipate this!

There were council people who did not jump into this mess and should not be blamed. But as for the ones who did: The more the public sees of this, the more support will coalesce around the strong mayor proposal, especially if it involves reducing the power of the city council.

The Thornton-Reese quote keeps working on me relentlessly, like something out of Edgar Allan Poe: The petition, when they check all of those, and they did not have all of those, so they're not checking each and every one of those, and that's what makes the difference.

Please, please, make it go away.

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