Farmers Branch's epic, seven-and-a-half year quest to ban people living in this country illegally came to a close on Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's ruling that a city ordinance requiring tenants to prove legal residency before renting a home was unconstitutional. Whatever Mayor Bill Glancy may think, this is the end of the line. The case is doornail dead.
That's not to say Farmers Branch's legal fight achieved nothing. It inspired Hispanic activists to force the adoption of single-member council districts. It ensured that anyone who happens to Google the town immediately associates it with bigotry. And it caused the town to rack up more than $8 million in legal fees, according to The Dallas Morning News.
So we can better understand what a monumental waste of money that is, let's put that number in a bit of context.
Farmers Branch is not a large city. Its 2012 population was just shy of 30,000, meaning the rental-ban fight cost the average resident $267.
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Had the City Council instead opted to spend that money on city services instead of chasing hateful windmills, it could have funded its entire fire department for a year, the library for almost six years and its senior center for 15. If the cash were poured into economic development, it would expand an annual budget line item by a factor of 20.
But let's say Farmers Branch wanted to use the money on cops. Spread over eight years, it would have funded an 18-percent increase in the number of officers patrolling the streets, who could then help satisfy the City Council's No. 1 public safety priority, which is to "decrease the number of criminal illegal aliens in the community." (This ranks just above "arrive on the scene for emergency police calls in less than 4 minutes.")
These comparisons are imperfect, and they fail to take into account variables like the generosity of Trammell Crow, who chipped in around half a million of his own money. But for a town that small, the opportunity cost of waging a stupidly expensive legal fight can be very large indeed.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.