Put on a happy face

The City of San Antonio says it plans to rewrite the portions of the City Parade Ordinance Judge Xavier Rodriguez labeled unconstitutional yesterday as early as the first part of March. Council passed the new ordinance in late November, and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition immediately filed a lawsuit objecting to several provisions, including the seemingly arbitrary method for assessing permit fees and the lack of options for groups who can't pay the estimated traffic-control and cleanup costs. Judge Rodriguez's order prevents the City from enforcing the ordinance as it is written.

Rodriguez issued the preliminary injunction based on three provisions he found unconstitutional: the wide discretion accorded the police chief in assessing costs, the conflation of traffic-control costs with "security" costs, and the exemption of funeral processions and government agencies operating within the scope of their functions.

"We're actually pleased with the decision, those are easy fixes," City Attorney Michael Bernard told the Current. "We'll have to take out the exemptions for funerals and government entities, `and` we have to make clear that the costs will be solely for traffic control, not safety -- which we thought we had done ... that was the intent."

The City can ask the court to review the revamped ordinance and lift the injunction if the judge's objections have been met. Free Speech Coalition attorney Amy Kastely said that even if the City successfully corrects those terms, they will proceed with the suit on the grounds that the ordinance favors some First Amendment marches over others, and doesn't provide adequate alternatives for indigent groups. The plaintiffs have been gathering evidence for their October 14 trial date, which, Kastely says, shows a pattern of favoritism and inconsistent fee assessment.

Bernard says he's not worried.

"All that is under the old ordinance, when much more discretion was granted," he said. "That was the point `of the new ordinance`."

Bernard is, it seems, a confident guy in general, telling the Current (who was foolish enough to ask whether the City would be seeking guidance as it works to make its Parade Ordinance constitutional -- after all, it's not like after eight years of Bush we're all super-fresh on the full potential of the word): "I can read the court order. I don't particularly need advice."

Non sequitur:

Do you need advice? I sure do sometimes.

Try Dear Uncle Mat: free input and reflection on dating, sex, gender identity, pets, and art -- all from a guy with actual experience in all of the above. Plus: anonymity guaranteed. Email [email protected].

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