Wednesday, May 21, 2008
FIFTEENTH ADDRESS TO CITY COUNCIL (Re: A Resolution To Impeach)
My goal in this speech was to respond to the Mayor who had cut me off last week, admonishing me about attacking any members of the council. I felt certain that he was going to be "on point" this time, looking for an excuse to cut me off again.
Sure enough, Ben and I noticed that he switched my card with Diane's (though I knew I had signed up to speak before her) thus putting me last, which would make it easier to cut me short and end the session. We also noticed him conferring with the retired Air Force officer on the council prior to my going up, as if they were hatching some plan. Also, the bailiff who almost always sits down low on the first row in the chamber nearest the council members' dais moved to stand just behind me and Ben where we sat on the top row. Never seen him do that before.
I turned to Ben and said, "I think he's laying for me." Ben nodded: "I think you're right."
When the Mayor called my name, when I got to the lecturn, he started right in: "Now, Mr. Harper, remember what happened the last time you spoke. I will not tolerate attacks on this council--I don't want to hear how we're not following our oath of office, you understand? Nothing about that."
"May I respond?" I asked him. He nodded. I reminded him that the previous week I was responding to remarks by the retired Air Force council member, just as I had responded to remarks of the Mayor in other speeches. "So I don't know when it's okay to respond and when it's not."
"Well, I'm talking to you in advance of your speech and I'm warning you that if you say anything about our not following our oath of office, I will cut you off. Do you understand?"
I said I understood, but continued to insist that I had not been insulting to anyone.
The tension in the room was pretty thick as I read my speech, certain as I read every line that he was going to cut me off. In my remarks, I went over the freedom of speech clause in both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, looking the mayor in the eye as I did so. He did not look happy.
Meanwhile, council member Hicks kept looking over at the mayor expectantly, as if she, too, were certain that he was going to pull the trigger at any moment. He never did. I think he was quite frustrated, actually. My speech was so carefully worded that he simply could not find a way to stop me; yet, I was able to get my points across.
Score one for me on this round. It will be interesting to see what happens next week. Diane says she's going to go after the mayor for conflicts of interest--his voting on gas drilling issues while invested in the gas industry.
Mayor, council members, good morning. I appear again to ask you to pass a resolution calling for the impeachment of the Pres. & V. P. of the United States.
People ask me why are you doing this? What do you hope to achieve? Often, I notice people in this chamber seem to look at me with expressions of disdain or even ridicule.
For me, the basis for this project has always been the Constitution, which, along with freedom of speech, gives citizens the right to petition their government for a redress of grievances. In fact, the first Amendment states that such rights cannot even be abridged. I take that to mean that, in the context of civil, reasoned discourse, these rights cannot be thwarted or silenced by anyone—certainly not by any elected official of this state or of this nation.
The Texas Constitution is, if anything, more blunt.
Section 8 of Article 1 of the Texas Bill of Rights says that “Every person shall be at liberty to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject. . .and no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press.”
So it was my thinking, however misguided, to come to this place, being the seat of law and government of this town, consisting of a mayor and council members who have sworn an oath to protect and defend this Constitution and laws.
I came because I saw there were members here who seem to think of the rules and the law as of paramount importance. Members like my own representative, Mr. Silcox, who I've seen time and again stand up for the rules, on such issues as the rule governing leaf blowers. Which I strongly agree with, by the way. I still rake and sweep up my grass just like I did before there were all these noisy polluting contraptions.
And Mr. Silcox has also stood for the rules on gas drilling. As Mr. Burns and Ms. Hicks have done—always considerate of the environment in which we must all live. The Mayor himself--Mr. Moncrief--has been a heroic advocate of the homeless.
So I came here believing that surely some members of this body would be in favor of standing up for the rules when they seem threatened by the national government.
Surely, I thought, someone here would be outraged that the rules had been broken by the needless invasion of another country; by those who have taken away the right of habeas corpus, who would actually legislate the torture of human beings.
I thought perhaps the outrage over homelessness might somehow translate to similar outrage over the fact that some 4 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes since we invaded their country. Or that increasing numbers of our veterans are homeless.
In closing, let me remind you that some sixty years ago, our boys in uniform defeated the Germans and the Japanese and were back home going to college on the G.I. Bill in less time than we have now spent in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's idea of honoring our soldiers killed in this war that he started was to give up playing golf.
Do you really believe that this man and his cohorts deserve a free pass?