You may have noticed that recently the country has taken a turn to the stupid...er...a turn to the conservative as Tea Party members and unmedicated republicans won majorities in the US House of Representatives, as well as many state legislatures across the land. "Holy crap," you may have thought. "These people are completely off the rails. It's a good thing there are still a few sane folks left in government who realize the highest priority is protecting corporate profits, otherwise, well can you imagine if they were totally in charge?"
Well, imagine no more.
Be careful before starting a Boy Scout troop in Gould, Ark. Or a Harry Potter fan club. Or a baseball team. The City Council adopted an ordinance last week making it illegal to form any kind of group without its permission."We're particularly concerned about the Harry Potter stuff," said one Council member who asked not to be named. "That's witchcraft you know. We got enough trouble around here without somebody learning how to turn the Council president into a toad or something, but mostly we're just mad at the mayor."
Even by the standards of small-town dramas, Gould’s situation is bleak. The town faces nearly $300,000 in unpaid taxes, and there have been frequent clashes among the mayor, the advisory group and the City Council over how to repay it. Those clashes — and a perception by the City Council that the citizens’ group is seeking too much influence — led to the ban on new organizations."Where do you think you are, in communistland? This is Arkansas," said another council member. "The last thing we need here is citizen's groups getting involved in government stuff. By the way, you wouldn't happen to have any of that left over stimulus money laying around anywhere would you? We're a little short this month."
Last week, the Council overrode the mayor’s veto of two other controversial measures. One required that the citizens advisory council cease to exist. The other made it illegal for the mayor to meet with “any organization in any location” either “inside or outside Gould city limits” without the Council’s permission.They're currently debating an ordinance that would require the mayor to go to his room without his supper.
The advisory council, which calls itself a nonpartisan group that educates voters and raises money for public causes, says it will continue its work. But the Council, in one ordinance, accused the group of “causing confusion and discourse among the citizens” by harshly criticizing local officials at public meetings.It was later learned that several members of the Council had contacted the FBI requesting information on whether causing discourse was a federal offense.
The mayor said he would go to jail rather than stop meeting with local groups or withdrawing his support from the advisory council."And I'm not going to stop hanging out at the DQ after council meetings either," he added. "Even if you ground me and take away my Xbox."
On Monday, the City Council, too, began backing away. Sonya Farley, a councilwoman, said she would probably vote to rewrite the ordinances with more constitutionally sensitive wording."We're thinking about something along the lines of 'We're idiots, what did you expect?'" Farley told reporters.
“This ordinance was worded wrong,” she said. “It wasn’t written to stop people from meeting. It was written to treat everybody fairly.”Right. So when you wrote it was illegal for the mayor to meet with “any organization in any location” either “inside or outside Gould city limits” without the Council’s permission, and required that the citizens advisory council cease to exist, what you meant was “the best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.”