Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Story of an American Mayor

In the history of America, there probably have been worse mayors than Tim O'Hare.

But I'm not going to talk about them today.

Tim O'Hare is the mayor of Farmers Branch, Texas, a suburb just north of Dallas.  It's a charming town of just under 30,000 people.  In its long history it's evolved from a farming community (irrigated by the "farmers' branch" of the Trinity River) to a post-WWII bedroom community to an inner-ring suburb populated by young families, retirees, and a large number of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. 

Among its attributes are an enviable tax base, provided by a plethora of professional and light-industrial businesses within the city limits; an extensive parks system that is the envy of many a bigger and wealthier suburb; and arguably the best Independence Day festivities anywhere in North Texas. 

And since 2008, Farmers Branch has been led by Tim O'Hare.  Hizzoner the Mayor recently announced that he won't be seeking re-election when his term is up next year.  He's about to become a first-time father, and rumors are strong that he'll be running for the Texas State Legislature sooner rather than later.  Some in Farmers Branch are saddened by his decision.  Others are thrilled.

Coming soon to a political
campaign commercial near you.
Mayor O'Hare has been a busy guy while in office (he previously spent three years on the city council, too).  His most visible legacy, of course, is his battle to get illegal immigrants the hell out of his town.  Good for him, I say: everyone knows that illegal immigrants are responsible for 97.835% of all crimes committed in this country.  Wait, that's not true?  You say that less than 7% of all inmates in state and federal prisons are non-citizens, and not all of those are in this country illegally?  And that the percentage of non-citizen prisoners is proportionally lower than their actual population?

Well, they're still breaking the law by drawing breath within our borders, so good on Mayor O'Hare for enforcing federal immigration laws.  How did he propose to do that, anyway?  Well, by passing a city ordinance saying that anyone who rents a dwelling in Farmers Branch has to prove U.S. citizenship.  Hmmm.  Well, that sounds a little bit like "guilty until proven innocent," but as long as duly appointed federal authorities were doing the citizenship checks...

Not federal authorities?  OK, then, state officials.  Or police officers.  No?  Then who?  Local...landlords.  The ordinance as passed (and yes, it passed) would have had private citizens verifying the federal immigration status of prospective tenants.  The power to unclog toilets, the duty to enforce federal law:  that's today's property manager.

Like Mario, but not so foreign-looking.
In any event, not a single person has had to present a single document under this ordinance, because Mayor O'Hare's law has been tied up in appeals since it was passed in January 2008.  And not just the original ordinance, but the amended version of it that the mayor drafted after the original version was struck down on the grounds that a tiny Dallas suburb doesn't have the right to create and enforce its own version of federal immigration laws.  No matter how much the mayor and his supporters dislike people with brown skin.  Allegedly.

Still, even though the measure was never enacted, and even though the city has spent more than four million dollars unsuccessfully defending it in court, Mayor O'Hare calls it a success.  Because it's given him boffo name recognition for his upcoming run for state office.  Allegedly.  Actually, Hizzoner the Mayor calls it a success because it's made illegal immigrants afraid of Farmers Branch, Texas.  Boasting about the fact that collisions involving uninsured motorists have declined significantly, he said, "I can come up with no other explanation as to why it’s gone from 43 percent [uninsured] to 3 percent other than the number of illegal immigrants driving through our town or living in our town has declined." 

Revamping the Police Department's image probably helped, too.
Of course, since that 43% figure was current, Texas has granted cities the power to impound cars when drivers can't provide proof of insurance - even if they're God-fearing American citizens and not filthy illegals.  That might have some impact on the number of uninsured drivers, whether they're involved in accidents or not. Oh, and hit-and-run accidents have been increasing in frequency for several years.  So we don't know how many of those scofflaws were uninsured drivers of any immigration status. We'll just table the question of how the Mayor knows that only illegal immigrants lack insurance.

But I will agree with Mayor O'Hare on this:  Illegal immigrants are probably scared to go anywhere near Farmers Branch (in fact, probably so are many Hispanic citizens and legal non-citizens, who tend to be lumped in with illegal immigrants by people who can detect citizenship status with magic eye lasers or something).

Hey, here's a fun fact:  The daytime population of Farmers Branch is three to four times its actual population, because so many people commute there for work.  Also, the city sits at the intersection of two major highways, so tons more people drive through town every day.  A bunch of those people likely buy food, gas, and lottery tickets in Farmers Branch on a regular basis.  Unless, of course, they don't drive through town because it's a scary, intolerant place, ha ha!

That's OK, though, because the citizens of Farmers Branch are willing to forego that revenue and associated sales tax to support their mayor.  Even if it means the city doesn't have enough money to run its only public library.  Well, except for one citizen.  He didn't like that dwindling city revenues and the millions spent to defend the "Mayor O'Hare Hates Hispanics" ordinance had left Farmers Branch in the position of potentially privatizing the library to make ends meet.  So he did what any concerned citizen would do:  He brought the matter up at a City Council meeting at which the mayor was presiding.

And Mayor O'Hare heard him out.  Well, actually, Mayor O'Hare cut him off, cleared the chambers, and had the concerned citizen escorted out of City Hall.  (You can see it here.)  He said he was sick and tired of talking about it.  Can't blame him.  I'm sort of sick and tired of him talking about it, too.

But there's more to Tim O'Hare than fighting against immigrants.  (Totally random, unrelated thought: Is O'Hare a Native American name?  Were there any O'Hares on the Mayflower?  I'll check on it.)  Mayor O'Hare also wants Farmers Branch to form its own school district.  It currently is part of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District.  Carrollton has a good number of Hispanics, too, but it doesn't have Tim O'Hare as mayor. 

Tim O'Hare requires Carrollton's mayor to stay
one Asian man's width from him at all times.
Farmers Branch doesn't have enough school-age children to form its own district under Texas state law.  Mayor O'Hare says he can change that law, or at least chase it out of his town.  Why would he want to do that?  Since CFBISD has an acclaimed gifted and talented program, and Farmers Branch doesn't even have a high school within its boundaries (they're all located in Carrollton, although one is only a few blocks north of the city line), then what would be the benefit of the new school district?

Well, most of the kids who attend public school in Farmers Branch are Hispanic, because most of the Anglo kids go to private schools.  Mayor O'Hare wants to woo those families back to public schools in the city, thereby creating a school district whose demographics and culture are more Anglo-friendly.  He can't do that within the present district configuration, because he can't create a white plurality unless he isolates the city's population from that of Carrollton, Irving, and a couple of other suburbs that feed into CFBISD.  Heck, with just a little more marginalizing of the Hispanic residents, he could probably create a majority.  And if anyone could do it,  it would be Mayor Tim O'Hare.

Hmmm, that still sounds a little bit like Tim O'Hare not liking Hispanics.  Let's talk instead about his brave stance against a mentoring program at R.L. Turner High School.  Hizzoner the Mayor opposed the program, which targets students at high risk of becoming dropouts, because it included adult mentors who were members of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.  Mayor O'Hare called them "divisive and far left-leaning" and thus a negative influence on future voters schoolchildren. 

If LULAC had its way, we'd all have mustaches and eat corn chips.
MY GOD, I'M HALFWAY THERE!
I wonder if LULAC was vocal in its opposition to Tim O'Hare's anti-immigrant ordinance?  Oh, right, it was.

Look, admittedly this is presenting a pretty one-sided picture of Mayor O'Hare.  Let me pick up yesterday's edition of the Dallas Morning News and see what else he's up to.  Ah, here we go:  "Gay student club gets a cold welcome in Farmers Branch." 

There, you see.  He doesn't want gay kids feeling safe or accepted any more than he wants illegal immigrants driving through his town.  That's...fair, right?  Inclusive, even?  I can't wait to hear about his next effort to beam the white light of justice as he sees it on some undercriticized group that just wants to live free in America.

Did I mention that Tim O'Hare is a personal injury lawyer who works on contingency?  Just putting that out there.  I'm sure he's an upstanding and totally ethical personal injury lawyer who works on contingency, and that he conducts himself with the same sense of decorum and ethics with which he conducts City Council meetings.

Apropos of nothing,
here's a picture of Adolf Hitler.

Full disclosure:  I worked in Farmers Branch for 18 years.  I bought my first house there.  I gave birth to my child there.  My neighbors were lovely people of all races, and I never required any of them to show me a green card.  Tim O'Hare was elected after my family and I moved away.  I'm sorry I never had the chance to vote against him.

5 comments:

  1. I don't know if this is relevant but the word at the beauty shop is that hizzonor is a thin skinned mama's boy. Not that there's anything wrong with mamas or being thin!

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  2. billpayer: hee hee. :) I've got another story about Mayor Tim that didn't make the papers. Trying to find a nice way to present it...

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  3. Very nice work! Unfortunately, I'm the only brown person I see at the polls every time I go. If the hispanic population doesn't vote, nothing matters. Haters like O'Hare will always feel they have 70-90% of the city behind them. He needs to realize that it is only 70-90% of the less-than-3,000 that actually vote.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for the feedback! Brown, white, black - none of us can complain about who ends up leading us unless we earn the right by voting.

    ReplyDelete

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