All posts by Justin L. Oliver

Justin believes that if you wish to be free you must allow others to be free as well. He opines on culture and politics at Who Plans Whom? Follow @justinLoliver .

Haltom City council doesn’t object to using stereotypes, moves forward with panhandling ordinance

After a plea from organizer Ryan Murphy of Unite South Haltom to reconsider a proposed panhandling ordinance at the Sept. 28 regular session, council member Scott Garrett stated that “Stereotypes come about from truth a lot of times. I mean, that is why it is a stereotype. It is true a lot of times about a group of people. There are exceptions.”

No one on the council objected to using stereotypes to enforce policy, and the ordinance passed its first reading unanimously.

Murphy was responding to a presentation Keith Lane, chief of the Haltom City Police Department, gave to the council that provided a 2002 report stating the typical profile of a panhandler is that of an “unemployed, unmarried male in his 30s or 40s, with substance abuse problems, few family ties, a high school education, and laborer’s skills.”

The demographics were compiled from studies published from 1994 to 2000. One study from the Evanston, Illinois, Police Department scoffed at its city formerly proposed maximum “$500!” fine for panhandling, which drew nationwide embarrassment from talkshow host Jay Leno. The proposed Haltom City ordinance endorsed by Chief Lane also has a fine of up to $500.

In response to the ridicule, Evanston reduced panhandling using other methods after concluding “a legalistic approach was not practicable.” The Evanston report documents how the city enlisted support organizations to redirect donations by talking directly with givers and posting information signs at local businesses. Before implementation of the city’s program of asking that donations be redirected and providing more police visibility, police officers conducted voluntary interviews with panhandlers to identify the subset who were aggressive.

After implementation of the program, 55 percent of the city’s panhandlers had stopped, 63 percent of the aggressive panhandlers moved elsewhere, and 13.8 percent of aggressive panhandlers hadn’t changed their behavior. Local businesses were surveyed and three-quarters agreed that they were at least satisfied with the program and that aggressive panhandling had been reduced “significantly in the downtown area.”

When suggested during the public forum that the city could take alternative steps like enforcement of the existing laws against blocking traffic, harassment or trespassing, council member Trae Fowler said, “We looked at a lot of those things.” Chief Lane or the council did not offer detail on what, if any, steps have been tried.

The ordiance should be up for its final reading at the next regular session Oct. 12.

The full video of the Haltom City regular sessions is available at https://vimeo.com/140789913.

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Haltom City council looks to approve 2016 budget and property tax rate

The Haltom City council is scheduled to finalize approval of the 2016 fiscal year budget and property tax rate at Monday’s upcoming meeting.

The final vote will be held in the council’s chamber during the meeting. The property tax rate is slated to remain unchanged at .69999 cents per $100 in accessed value, which is an effective increase of about 1.3 percent as property assessments have risen since last year.

The proposed budget totals $73,629,974, a decrease of $23,601 from the current budget. A total of 10 budget workshop meetings have been held since August, according the city’s website.

The meeting will be held at city hall at 5024 Broadway Ave. during the regular session that begins at 7 p.m. The formal agenda posted to the city’s website includes proposals for a panhandling and day laborer ordinance that was discussed at the council’s Sept. 14 workshop meeting.

Tarrant prosecutor cites reason for dropping falsification and theft charges against officers

The reason charges against Fort Worth police officers accused for falsifying government documents to defraud a federal traffic enforcement grant have been finally confirmed after months of speculation and evasive answers from Fort Worth law enforcement officials.

Chief of Police Jeff Halstead said the charges were dropped in January after three years of delays by the county prosecutor’s office, who in turn said new evidence was presented and the lack of testimony from witnesses were to blame. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has reported that in fact the chief of police requested the charges be dropped so the public wouldn’t learn of an illegal ticket writing quota.

Assistant District Attorney David Lobingier revealed that there was a coordinated ticket writing system to meeting guidelines for retaining a traffic enforcement grant that paid officers hundreds of thousands in overtime pay each year.

More than four years have passed since allegations of fraud were brought against nine Fort Worth officers accused for altering ticket times to receive overtime time from a Federal traffic enforcement grant. Eight officers were eventually indicted, but all charges were dropped in January of this year without any concise explanation.


Image credit

Flickr (kippbakr)

Mobile home community organizes against new Irving landlord’s steep demands

The reclusive new landlord of an Irving mobile home park has imposed stringent controls to gentrify the community, prompting residents to organize with the Texas Tenants Union to protect themselves from unfair practices. Under new rules drafted unilaterally, residents of the Oak Creek Ranch Mobile Home Park are restricted from such mundane acts as washing their cars within the park, and even the number and color of potted plants are subject to oversight.

Under terms of the new lease agreement, according to the Dallas Observer, residents are subject to immediate fines without meaningful recourse for appeal. Despite Texas law that gives tenants nearly three full weeks before having to vacate, tenants of Oak Creek Ranch more than three days late are now subject to having to having their homes entered and all of their belongings, including their mobile home, confiscated under the absurd rationale that not being able to make pay rent and inordinate fines means the property has been abandoned. Meanwhile, the landlord’s limited-liability company that’s claiming ownership of the property is registered out of Delaware, and managers won’t make themselves available for tenants to pay rent in person. When the property manager claims they hadn’t received the payment by mail, a handful of tenants had to pay double to keep from getting evicted. Others have seen their water and sewer utility bills quadruple some months.

The registered agent for title holder Alegre TKO is Eliot Barnett, a Dallas real-estate developer. It seems the residents are being targeted in a bid to drive them off the ground where some have lived productively for more than 20 years.


Additional Resources

The Texas Tenants Union provide education to tenants about their rights and organizes to protect their quality of life.

Oak Creek Ranch lease:

Image Credit:

Texas Tenants Union