Sunday, July 2, 2017

Thin Blue Line

Nope not about Cops but about larger urban swaths of Cities/Towns that lean politically liberal within larger conservative states.

The issue is that many of these cities are finding themselves at political odds within their regional leadership and that many of the municipalities that attempt to generate laws and ordinances that are more conducive and in turn receptive to their constituents are finding themselves literally blocked and circumvented by the State Legislature.

Nowhere is this in evidence better than here in Tennessee. There are few ordinances or even proposed ones that don't find themselves at complete loggerheads with the conservative if not repressive legislature that has my personal favorite, The Beav or Mark Green who was so divisive he could not manage to secure a job in the Trump Administration and that has to be one low bar to jump.

And we are home to  Steve Cook who makes Session seem like a Pussy that Trump would not dare to grab.

I lived in Austin Texas and it was a great town in an equally divisive hateful state.  Texas has become even more hateful and conservative since I lived there and George W. Bush was the Governor.

Dan Savage, the Columnist for The Stranger and well known Activist was on Bill Maher Friday. And while I find both men tolerable in small doses.  Why?   It is because they are so equally incalcitrant with their views and the arrogance that comes from a place of liberal moral superiority I see them as lightening bolts versus switches to enable others to learn of an alternative perspective.  But their discussion about why Democrats lost the special elections of late as well as their own inability to coalesce and resonant with voters in ways the Republicans do was actually quite insightful if not accurate. There is something about Liberals and herding cats that cannot be denied.   When Republicans hate each other and they too have divisions in their ranks they throw all that aside and are like a Gang in their own ability to at least obstruct and push through their views regardless of the majority.  No wonder many of them were easily recruited by Putin as the parallels cannot be ignored.

It used to be "As California goes so goes the Nation." There is little to argue that the largest State is largely urban and in turn the liberal politics of Los Angeles and San Francisco overtake even more conservative counterpart San Diego and the adjacent Orange County which of late is finding itself becoming more like the Ocean that lies adjacent as the times they are a changing. 

But the South and the Southwest are seeing the largest increase in population and it is ironic that it is these very regions that they are the most affected by Climate Change as we have seen with the record high temperatures of late and in turn the costs from everything to energy to commerce due to the inability to travel.  And the South this year is struggling with crops including the famous Georgia Peaches that are all part of the local economy.   

But why many of the residents here don't get it is because they are stupid.  Education here is derided and few see the benefits that don't outweigh the costs. The generational division and in turn the history of the region leads to many to simply refuse to accept "facts." They are too entrenched in their history to even question it or see it as a teaching tool in which to grow and change for good. The only book that matters is The Bible and they are even unaware that there are in fact many versions and in turn interpretations that lend to the well crafted mythology that defines the Christian dogma.  The Bible as Literature? No the Bible as law.

And what we have are Legislators and Governors that are elected on this concept and nowhere is this a better example than Kansas with their God fearing, feet washing, Sam Brownback.  And the state of that State is well documented. So much for Prayer and trickle down' economics.  Did Jesus preach that in the Temple?

This has been a fascinating experiment for me and it won't last long enough for me to need to prove any of my beliefs and theories.  I don't need to. The reality of the present speaks for itself.  I need to be a member of the blue line.  We may be pearl clutchers and hand wringers but we are not this.





In Austin, the air smells of tacos and trees — and city-state conflict
By Sandhya Somashekhar The Washington Post July 1 2017


AUSTIN — The grand old oak called Patsy Cline rises gracefully on three trunks. Waylon Jennings leans lazily before angling back toward the sun. And Willie Nelson, tall and broad, ascends on a torso three feet thick before bursting into a dense green canopy.

Citizens here named the trees in an effort to save more than a dozen of them — all protected under a city ordinance — that stand in the way of a planned new mixed-use development. It is the kind of quintessentially local battle that plays out in cities across the country, albeit one with a distinctly local flavor in this quirky, musically inclined town.

But here in Texas, the bigger battle over tree ordinances is whether they represent a form of local government overreach. Gov. Greg Abbott (R), citing grave worries about “socialistic” behavior in the state’s liberal cities, has called on Texas lawmakers to gather this month for a special session that will consider a host of bills aimed at curtailing local power on issues ranging from taxation to collecting union dues.

Texas presents perhaps the most dramatic example of the increasingly acrimonious relationship between red-state leaders and their blue city centers, which have moved aggressively to expand environmental regulations and social programs often against the grain of their states.

Republican state leaders across the country have responded to the widening cultural gulf by passing legislation preempting local laws. The best-known example is North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” which was partially reversed this year. It was originally aimed at undercutting Charlotte’s efforts to expand civil rights laws to include LGBT people and to prevent cities from setting their own minimum wage.

[North Carolina governor signs bill repealing and replacing transgender bathroom law amid criticism]

But states also have gone after cities in more subtle ways. Ohio’s legislature last year attempted to block a Cleveland regulation that requires certain city contractors to hire local residents. A new Arizona law threatens to cut off funding to cities that take actions state officials deem to be in violation of state law.

“These preemption laws are designed to intimidate and bully local officials into doing the bidding of a smaller group of folks,” said Michael Alfano of the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, a new nonprofit organization aimed at fending off state efforts to undermine local power.

Matthew Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, an organization of Republican state officials, said preemption laws are coming up more and more because of political losses by Democrats at the state and federal levels.

Cities “seem to be sort of the last vanguard of Democratic and progressive ideals, which at this point continue to move leftward toward . . . a more socialist vision,” Walter said. Because cities and counties derive their power from the states, states are within their rights to rein in rogue local governments, he said.

The Texas special session has not been greeted kindly in the state capital of Austin, a liberal outpost where officials say they are being used as a political punching bag by Republican state lawmakers appealing to voters elsewhere in this conservative state.

A war of words has erupted between Abbott and city officials, with a city councilman calling Abbott “cowardly” for his approach to a crackdown on “sanctuary cities” — where officials refuse to help detain and deport those in the country illegally — and Abbott mocking the smell of Austin’s air.

“Once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different,” Abbott joked at a recent gathering of Republicans, referring to the county that includes Austin. “And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom. It’s the smell of freedom that does not exist in Austin, Texas.”

The comments did not land well in this fast-developing city that boasts a high quality of life.

“The air in Austin is pretty sweet with an unemployment rate that is a point lower than the state, a lower violent crime rate than the state, with the highest rates of patents and venture capital in the state,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) shot back. “And the air is sweet with tacos.”

Adler has accused the governor of waging a “war on cities,” calling the state’s attempts to interfere with what local communities think work best for them “the height of micromanaging.”

“We do feel besieged here,” Adler said.

Republican state lawmakers counter that cities like Austin have gone too far in regulating citizens, and tree-hugging ordinances that limit what landowners can do with their own properties are a prime example.

Texas’s tree ordinance issue is among 20 agenda items Abbott wants lawmakers to consider at the special session that begins July 18. Other, far more hefty proposals, include a teacher pay raise, new abortion restrictions and a measure styled after North Carolina’s bathroom bill — by far the most controversial issue.

Also on Abbott’s agenda are measures to restrict the ability of cities and counties to raise property taxes, annex land, collect employee union dues and set rules for the use of cellphones while driving.

The session comes at a time when tensions between the state and some liberal Texas cities, including Austin, are rising over federal immigration enforcement. Earlier this year, the legislature passed a measure forcing sanctuary cities to help detain and deport those in the country illegally. Austin is among several cities suing the state over the new law.

Still, the tree issue has been an animating one in Texas, with multiple bills introduced during the regular session taking aim at local tree ordinances. A sponsor of one of the bills, Sen. Donna Campbell (R), said she is sympathetic to those who want to preserve their community’s greenery but that their preferences are “immaterial” when compared with property rights.

“When a person buys a piece of land, they buy everything on it and that includes the trees,” said Campbell, an emergency-room doctor whose district includes part of Travis County. Campbell has asked the attorney general to opine on whether tree ordinances are permitted under the Texas constitution.

Many Austin boosters say that if the air smells pleasant in Austin, it’s thanks to the trees, which cover nearly a third of the land in the city. The canopy has been preserved in part because of a long-standing ordinance that requires property owners to get permission — and sometimes pay a fee — before cutting down any tree greater than 19 inches in diameter on their own land.

The ordinance came up recently during heated debate about the Austin Oaks, an ambitious development that will bring housing, shops and glossy office space to a shady area in the northern part of town. It is marked by boxy office buildings built in the 1970s and 1980s, and expanses of parking lot shaded by sprawling old trees.

The proposal to shear the property of hundreds of trees, including about a dozen “heritage” oaks whose girth exceeds 24 inches, infuriated local residents, and they decided to make their displeasure known in distinctly Austin ways.

Idee Kwak, a music teacher, created a diorama of the property complete with tiny plastic trees. During a presentation at a city council meeting that bordered on performance art, she enlisted two helpers to rip out the trees and toss them on the ground, as cacophonous punk rock from the Nerv played in the background.

Another resident, Karen Sironi, a retired airline worker, decided to give names to each of the heritage trees in hopes of humanizing them for city officials. Most of the monikers were of country-western singers, though a few drew from other inspirations. When that didn’t work, she painted each tree’s portrait lined with black — to represent its death, she said.

In the end, the developer gained permission to remove all of the trees except Willie Nelson. On a recent morning, as the temperatures in Austin began their ascent to 100 degrees, Kwak and Sironi rested in the cool shade cast by the tree they called Lady Yoga, lamenting that anyone would consider taking her down.

Sironi said she has no patience with those who think Austin’s ordinance essentially bars landowners from cutting down their own trees. After all, she said, the developer here won.

“And what about my rights as a property owner to live in the kind of community I want?” she said. “That’s my right, too.”

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