Jurassic Park

Till death do us part

So, remember that little prediction we made not so long ago, something about the Supremes coming to rescue residents of La Frontera from the wall builders of U.S. Homeland Security and its contractors? That was an optimistic week for us at the Current. Court-watchers had us all bright and deluded.

We should have known when they split 5-4 over whether people from other countries who had been sacked and passed off to the U.S. military as “enemy combatants” had rights if we hid them in Cuba that we were in trouble.

That’s right, the High Court on Monday turned down a challenge by U.S. enviros to the consitutionality of one agency being allowed to waive bucketfuls of other federal laws to achieve its ends. Should Congress next authorize Homeland to conduct a nationwide, door-to-door burning of all fundamentalist religious texts, we are sure they would take the same reasonable route.

There are still legal challenges out there. A similar lawsuit carried by El Paso (city and county) and South Texas homeowners complaining of lack of consultation before Homeland sued them for their lands persists.

Tipping point

Speaking of reasonable routes, how about tracing possible pathways for foot-and-mouth disease to reach American beef cattle? From an island off Long Island: Eight Ball says tricky. From a South Texas research lab: less so. At least that’s what some livestock associations decided before taking up their cattle prods to protest the proposed move of Homeland Security’s (do they run everything now, or just the doomsday stuff?) proposed $450-million National Bio- & Agro-Defense germ lab off of the now-infamous Plum Island.

Last Friday, Der Homeland released their Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Queque is merrily marching through the 1,005-page tome, but found a few nuggets worth passing along.

? No preferred alternative is announced. All five locations (Georgia, Kansas, Misissippi, Missouri, and SA’s Texas Research Park) are still in play;

? Homeland could start building in 2010 and finish in four years;

? The facility would use 52-million gallons of water annually if it comes to Texas and would require 12.8 megawatts of power (roughly equal to 7,000 homes cooking, air-conditioning, and computing for a year);

? And if foot-and-mouth disease should slip out it could cost Texas $4.1-billion in lost business and dead livestock.

Speaking in support of a new N-BAF facility, though not advocating for a location, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Gary Voogt put the full outbreak figure at $10-$34 billion. That is good enough reason for the folks at National Grange, the nation’s oldest farming association, to oppose moving the lab to the mainland.

But, oh, that darned anticipated billions in economic-development potential (and word is the whole operation may be — say Republican three times fast — privatized). Feel better?

Magic time machine

No whopping big surprise that Council last week approved Mayor H’s plan to put a term-limits extension before SA voters this November, which, if passed, would allow you to elect your civil servants (present company excepted) to four two-year terms, rather than the two, two-year terms every council and mayor since Henry Cisneros’s era has labored under. `See “The trouble with term limits,” June 18-24.`

It was a surprise to Queque, however, to run into a recently term-limited councilman, now enjoying private citizenhood (and the Blue Star Red Dot fundraiser), who doesn’t lament the forced retirement. He worked the polls during Mayor Ed Garza’s failed bid to loosen the limits, he told us, and he clearly remembers a constituent approaching him to say what a great job he was doing. After she finished the backstroke, she excused herself, saying, I’ve got to go vote against this term-limit measure. From which Queque took the meaning that even impending absence makes the heart grow fonder.

My brontosaurus ate it

The San Antonio Free Speech Coalition and COSA were back in front of Federal Judge Xavier Rodriguez yesterday, discussing among other things the SAPD’s newly minted parade-permit procedures, some four months in the making — three if you don’t count the month Council took to draft a new parade ordinance, on which the procedures are based (computer problems were cited, said Coalition attorney Amy Kastely; the judge did not smirk). `See, “I love a charade,” January 16, 2008.` They’re longer and more detailed than the methods Judge Rodriguez found unconstitutional in February, but still allow too much police discretion, says Kastely. “For example,” she noted via email, “the International Women’s Day March ... would fall into EITHER category 2 (single-lane closure) OR 4 (Total Roadway Closure) which would have very different costs entailed.” The procedures in general require an awful lot of barricading she noted, which adds up quickly — i.e. 600 marchers covering more than a mile could run as much as $7,000 under the wrong circumstances.

“I think it is crazy for the City to spend that much, regardless of who has to pay for it,” wrote Kastely (First Amendment marches are eligible for a partial government subsidy).

City Attorney Michael Bernard declined to quibble over Kastely’s math, sticking instead to the principle of the thing. “The court did not say that the police can have no discretion,” he told the Current. “What the Standard Operating Procedure does is try to limit that so everybody kind of knows where the costs fall ... they have to exercise some discretion.” (Road conditions and time of day were mentioned.)

A trial date is set for November 17 but the City plans to ask the Court to lift the Parade Ordinance injunction as early as the end of this week. Kastely, too, will be busy, filing an amended complaint, due at the court in two weeks, that dresses down the new procedures in detail. “As long as it’s on the books, it’s chilling to people in San Antonio,” says Kastely.

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