ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOULD
July 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
The hamlet of Gould, Arkansas, population 850 or so, has a lot in common with 1939 Munich, Germany. If the Gould City Council has its way, citizens in Gould will enjoy the same lack of basic civil rights that Germans did under the Nazis more than 70 years ago.
You see, the City Council of Gould last week enacted a city ordinance that states “No new organizations shall be allowed to exist within the city of Gould without approval from majority of the city council.” The Mayor vetoed the ordinance, complaining that it was patently unconstitutional, but the council is expected to override the veto.
I have not read the ordinance in its entirety, but I saw one of the council members interviewed on Memphis news last weekend, and she explained that any group will need to convince the council of the merits of their group. Once satisfied, the council will grant permission for it to meet, and will decide what limitations will be imposed. “You can’t just come in here, get with four people and decide to start an organization,” she said, adding, “You will go through your city council with legal documentation and get approval.” The councilwoman said that someone has to be in control, and the city council is there for that purpose. That’s the way it works, she said; you go to the person in control and get permission.
Prohibited would be unauthorized meetings between citizens and the mayor, meetings of civic groups and church groups, and even family conversations about politics over the dinner table — unless the council grants its blessing.
It seems that the council was reacting to a local group that had been formed to question and criticize the council’s actions in not funding improvements to the community sewer system, or some such dispute, and the council did not appreciate the criticism. Their solution to the criticism was to eliminate it rather than address its substance. In other words, when you are faced with opposition, eliminate it.
There is no question that government without opposition is much more efficient and easy than when plain old voters get in the way. Ask any Nazi or Soviet, or any other totalitarian; they’ll tell you how much easier things flow when the citizenry doesn’t get in the way. Democracy is messy and contentious. Feelings get hurt. Things get said. Due process gums up the works. Dictatorship flows so much more smoothly.
But the First Amendent unquestionably gives the citizens of Gould, as citizens of the United States, the right to assemble peaceably, to speak out, to criticize, and to be heard by their elected officials. Our government is designed to let “we the people” mouth off, gripe to high heaven, and raise all manner of ruckus. Our forefathers launched a revolution based on the fact that the English tyrant would not pay any heed to their grievances. It’s no accident that the fundamental rights to speak, assemble and petition are in the very First Amendment to our Constitution.
I hope that someone from Little Rock pays a friendly visit to the misguided town council of Gould and convinces them of the obvious: that they are in violation of the law, and that they will save their town and taxpayers a lot of money by not requiring this sad episode to go to litigation involving lots of scarce dollars for attorneys fees. Scarce dollars that could be used to fix that sewer system.