Sunday, December 31, 2006

Texan is 3000th U.S. soldier to die in Iraq

The new year rings in on a tragic note.

A grim milestone was crossed on the final day of 2006 and at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the past 12 months. At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December.

Spc. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas, was killed Thursday by small arms fire in Baghdad, the Defense Department said. Donica was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Donica's death brings to over 250 the number of Texans killed since the war began.

Vigils are planned for Monday, January 1st in memoriam and to ask for immediate U.S. troop withdrawal. Actions are scheduled for various locations around the Metroplex and across Texas, including Arlington, Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

saddam hussein hanged in iraq

According to BBC:
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at a secure facility in northern Baghdad for crimes against humanity.

The news was confirmed to the BBC by the Iraqi deputy foreign minister.

Iraqi TV said the execution took place just before 0600 local time (0300GMT). A representative of the prime minister and a Sunni Muslim cleric were present.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

president gerald ford dies at 93

The longest-living and the only unelected President of the United States, Gerald Ford, died on Tuesday. Ford, a Michigan Republican, was 93.

Ford became vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned amid controversy, and became president when the embattled Richard Nixon was forced to leave office over the Watergate scandal. He was succeeded by Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Some speculate that Ford's legacy will be molded by his decision to pardon Nixon for any wrong-doing. Others insist that Ford will be remembered for healing a post-Watergate nation.

President Bush said this today:
"President Ford was a great American who gave many years of dedicated service to our country. On August 9, 1974, after a long career in the House of Representatives and service as vice president, he assumed the presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency."
Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, had the following words of remembrance for Ford:
"Gerald Ford brought Americans together during a difficult chapter in our history with strength, integrity, and humility. All Americans should be grateful for his life of service; he served our nation well. To his great credit, he was the same hard-working, down-to-earth person the day he left the White House as he was when he first entered Congress almost 30 years earlier."
NTL remembers Gerald Ford, an American President. We join the nation today in the mourning of the loss of one of our leaders.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Parsing the emergency contraception bill HB 23

North Texas made headlines in 2004 when a pharmacist in Denton, Texas refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraception for a rape victim. Since that time, the FDA has debated the merits of the emergency contraception pill in an approval process noteworthy more for its political posturing than its scientific merits. Nonetheless, the agency finally approved the drug for use without a prescription for women over the age of 17 in August of this year.

Wouldn't you think that all of those "family values" legislators would welcome a pill that...
....was responsible for approximately 43 percent of the decrease in the number of abortions from 1994 to 2000. If more widely available, EC could prevent 1.7 million unintended pregnancies and 800,000 abortions each year in the United States alone.
Apparently not. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, has introduced legislation which deals with emergency contraception. Corte has been dubbed the energizer bunny of anti-choice legislation for his prolific attempts at curtailing women's reproductive rights, and nothing in this legislative run-up contradicts that. Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex posted an in-depth analysis of several bills that have been filed by Corte, including HB 23. Vince's post has an extended excerpt of the bill, which is a doozy, and he does a great job of highlighting the complete absurdity of the logic behind the proposed bill.

After a short holiday hiatus, it seemed like a good time to point out an issue with Corte's bill that hasn't had too much discussion and deals specifically with the wording of the warning to be posted in the pharmacy.

But first, it might help to mention what emergency contraception is and is not. Emergency contraception usually refers to the brand name, Plan B, a synthetic hormone approved for use over-the-counter by the FDA. It should not be confused with RU486, the abortion pill. Plan B uses progestin, the same hormone used in daily birth control pills, but in a higher dosage.

From an Austin Chronicle op-ed on the HB 23:

....Corte's front-running legislative stinker would define emergency contraceptives as drugs that "prevent pregnancy by preventing fertilization of an egg or preventing implantation of an egg in a uterus," conveniently leaving out the third way EC can work, by preventing ovulation altogether.

Let's clarify this even further. Consider this statement from the FDA.

Plan B works like a birth control pill to prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. It is possible that Plan B may also work by preventing fertilization of an egg (the uniting of sperm with the egg) or by preventing attachment (implantation) to the uterus (womb), which usually occurs beginning 7 days after release of an egg from the ovary [emphasis mine]. Plan B will not do anything to a fertilized egg already attached to the uterus. The pregnancy will continue.

Preventing ovulation isn't just a third way that Plan B works - all evidence suggests that it is its primary mechanism of action. The reference to fertilization and implantation are speculation, but scientists, being a cautious lot, won't rule it out.

"....researchers will probably never be able to prove for certain whether or not emergency contraceptive pills have an effect after fertilization."

Of course, Corte doesn't want anyone to know that, because by emphasizing implantation, he wants us to equate emergency contraception with abortion. The Austin Chronicle article distills the logic behind this, quoting Corte staffer Kathi Seay:

"If you know, up front, that [Plan B] is preventing the implantation of an egg, and you're fine with it, [then] go for it."

So this then is the purpose of the bill: to misrepresent the science in order to confuse potential users, and if that doesn't work, then to stigmatize anyone who still insists on access to the drug.

And if all this seems a bit confusing, imagine how it must seem to young adults who haven't even had the benefit of comprehensive sex education.

View the text of HB 23 here.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

happy holidays

Dear Readers,

We appreciate you welcoming us into your lives this year. We started this blog in February as a place to rant about local (and occasionally national) politics. Little did we know that along the way we'd become enamored with this blog and the desire to inform.

With nearly 300 posts about everything from James Leininger's lobbying in Austin to CWA protests in Fort Worth, from the South Dakota abortion ban to the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, we have grown so much this year, as writers, as friends, as people. We wouldn't have come this far without your support. We hope to continue providing you news pertinent to progressive minds in North Texas, so keep us turned on and we'll keep you tuned in.

In short, thank you for a great year. Happy holidays to you and yours... may the rest of this holiday season be bright and spent with those you love most. We'll see you next year.

And because they're irresistible, here are the holiday cards sent out by Sen. Barack Obama and his beautiful family.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Amarillo sky high

The president of Pantex, the company in charge of dismantling nuclear weapons at their plant in Amarillo, has issued a statement categorically denying that the panhandle almost blew up last year.
A warning that an accident last year at the government's Pantex nuclear weapons factory near Amarillo could have led to a nuclear detonation "is an outright falsehood," the head of the company that runs the plant said Thursday.
Whew, that's a relief. So don't worry about those letters alleging "unthinkable" hazards, or the history of safety violations (who knew duct tape was so versatile?), or the on-going investigation into the latest accidents, or the whistleblower citing concerns about security.

According to one site that sounds like it might know, even if there were an accident, the possibility of a nuclear explosion is really, really unlikely. And even if an explosion occurred, it wouldn't be a melt-down, just a conventional explosion, you know, like setting off a little TNT.

Wait a minute.....isn't that the definition of a dirty bomb?

Basically, the principal type of dirty bomb, or Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD), combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. In most instances, the conventional explosive itself would have more immediate lethality than the radioactive material......A dirty bomb is in no way similar to a nuclear weapon. The presumed purpose of its use would be therefore not as a Weapon of Mass Destruction but rather as a Weapon of Mass Disruption.

Not to be confused with Weapons of Mass Deception, that's a whole 'nother story.

The gurus describe a likely scenario.
Anyway, yield or no yield, an accidental explosion of the HE in a W56 primary would be extremely lethal to nearby workers, create a major environmental cleanup problem and seriously erode the public’s confidence in operations at Pantex.
Ya think?

Just in case, if you're sending Christmas cookies to anyone in Amarillo, don't forget the potassium iodide tablets.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Market Street project goes back to P & Z

The Flower Mound Leader reports that the Flower Mound Town Council failed to approve the Market Street plan at Monday's meeting.

The debate over the Shops at Market Street raged on in Monday’s Town Council meeting. Ultimately, the council tabled the item until their January meeting, but intense discussion preceded the decision. At issue is the urban forest which would be significantly impacted by the development of the Market Street project called the Shops at Market Street.

Despite assurances from the developer to the News Connection that the impact on the urban forest zone would be minimal, critics of the plan say that it would remove several hundred trees, or over 58% of the total forest. Slated for removal is the oldest post oak in Flower Mound, estimated to be 400 years old.

“The site contains a significant amount of protected urban forest which should be protected as the town develops,” Doug Powell, executive director of development services, said. The intent behind protecting the urban forest in the Master Plan is the question the town now faces, Powell said.“What was the intent of the Master Plan? When it was said to be preserved?” he said.

In his presentation to town council, Alton Bowman, founder of the Flower Mound Association, suggested that if Flower Mound allows destruction of the forest, the town should modify its logo and replace the oak tree with a big box grocery store.

Another concern for the town council was the lack of resolution on the issue of the flood plain. Despite much ambiguity about where the actual flood plain lays, the developers for Market Street are requesting approval for their plan based on the contingency that the floodplain would be changed.

A final issue raised during the town council meeting deal with truck traffic. Councilmen Trotter and Lindsey expressed concerns that traffic routed through customer parking areas onto FM 1171 would present serious safety issues.

Consider this statement from the Market Street parent company website:

Since its founding in 1916, family-owned United Supermarkets has adhered to its founder's philosophy of growing and expanding into markets in order to "build up" communities.....One of the greatest privileges we enjoy is to be able to make a positive impact in the communities we serve.

It's ironic that a store which prides itself on being an asset to the community would champion a plan responsible for destroying so much of the character of a neighborhood during its development. If you would like to see a Market Street grocery store in Flower Mound, contact United Supermarkets and tell them you would welcome their development, but they need to find an alternate location for it.

At the conclusion of Monday's meeting, Councilman Trotter made a motion to remand the issue back to P&Z. Joining in this motion were Lindsey and Councilwoman Long. Voting to approve the plan as is were Stone and Tasker. The proposal now heads back to the P&Z board, currently scheduled for January 8, 2007.

Monday, December 18, 2006

will radnofsky challenge cornyn in 2008?

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Houston Democrat that challenged Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison for her seat in the U.S. Senate, may be gearing up for another campaign for the same position... in 2008.

Many have speculated that her bid against a popular incumbent was simply a way to gain name recognition while campaigning statewide. Not only would she earn credentials, she would be able to say that she took on the most popular politician in Texas unflinchingly. Then she would be able to challenge the weaker of Texas' two Republican Senators, John Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2008.

Radnofsky's holiday message to supporters suggests that she might be planning to announce an exploratory committee or an official campaign sometime in 2007.
We've kept the entire professional campaign staff together. Katie Floyd, Communications Director, is busy with our new Art Project (we have become dealers in JapanArt.Org and will be posting on the website soon), visiting her beautiful horse and baking for the holidays. She's also editing the second campaign book, and will plan a book and thank you tour for the spring. Katie planned and executed our successful fundraiser for Ciro and we all rejoiced in his win in the runoff. We're also working on starting a PAC. Your suggestions for names would be appreciated.

Seth Davidson, Campaign Manager, is also a principal in our Japan Art venture and remains with his business, Wildsteps. I'm traveling, thanking folks, spending time with family, doing the occassional mediation, planning the PAC and looking forward to the future. I'm counting my blessings, particularly you who read the newsletters.

I have great hope for the future. Believe.

Warmest regards,

One thing is for sure: if Radnofsky decides to make a run for Cornyn's seat, she'll have to emerge victorious from what is bound to be a more contentious primary than she faced in 2006, when she was forced into a runoff election against a perennial candidate. There are bound to be several sets of prominent Democratic eyes focusing on Cornyn's floundering approval ratings.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Why the conservative approach is sometimes best (or how we almost blew up Amarillo)

An article in the LA Times set the stage a few weeks ago.

In response to a secret order from President Bush, the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories are developing technology to make the weapons virtually impossible to use if they fall into the wrong hands......

But the 3-year-old effort, known as National Security Presidential Directive 28, has drawn strong criticism from many nuclear weapons experts, who doubt that absolute safeguards are necessary or even possible. Instead, they say, the federal government should fix known security weaknesses at bomb labs and factories......

"The real threat is the uranium and plutonium materials that are spread across the country in totally inappropriate places and inadequate facilities," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington group that has long criticized security at Energy Department sites. "So, rather than fixing the problem they have, they are trying to fix a problem they don't have."

Okay, the president is proposing another secret defense boondoggle, a la star wars, to sweeten the pot of some crony, while ignoring real security concerns. What else is new?

Well, one of those inappropriate places happens to be in Texas. Following a news release sent just after Thanksgiving, reports started circulating about a nuclear decommissioning facility in Amarillo. They cited concerns by the Department of Energy, including allegations that engineers were required to work 84 hour weeks and noted a fine was leveraged against BWTX Pantex, the contractor in charge of the facility...

....for three unsuccessful attempts between March 30 and April 26, 2005, to separate parts of a weapon.

The plant was cited for exceeding the amount of allowed force to a weapon and for failing to follow operating procedure.

The actions "demonstrated a nonconservative approach in decision making during a process in which strict adherence to established procedure was vital," according to a department of Energy news release.

."....demonstrated a nonconservative approach....." Such a benign way of saying WE ALMOST BLEW UP THE &&%%$$## PANHANDLE!!!! (Hey, we're a PG site so we'll have to leave it to McBlogger to fill in the blanks.)

Here's some analysis of that little "mishap".

"The Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit nuclear watchdog organization, called the incident a “near-miss” where production technicians who were disassembling a W56 warhead were putting too much pressure on the warhead.

The Pantex plant, located in the Texas Panhandle, was fined $110,000 and is now being investigated by the Department of Energy for a number of other alleged safety problems.

“When you’re dealing with full-up nuclear weapons, this near-miss is a hell of a situation,” said Peter Stockton, a spokesman for the Project on Government Oversight, or POGO. “A near-miss generally means that something horrible almost happened.”

This is how the Bush administration deals with security in our own back yard -- with pie-in-the-sky boondoggles, lax government oversight, a corporate contractor cutting corners and sacrificing safety for profit, and a nuclear facility that is still not secure.

A year ago we came close to setting off a nuclear catastrophe worse than any dirty bomb scenario ever imagined. With friends like these...

(Hat tip to Panhandle Truth Squad)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Market Street vote scheduled for Flower Mound Town Council

The Flower Mound Town Council will consider the Market Street plan for a grocery store at the corner of FM 1171 and FM 2499 in its meeting on Monday, Dec. 18th. This vote was originally scheduled for the Dec. 5th meeting of town council, but was postponed.

According to the News Connection:

At the last meeting of the Flower Mound Planning and Zoning Commission, [J.C. Bursiaga's] proposal to build a Market Street gourmet grocery store on the corner of FM 1171 and FM 2499 was turned down by a single vote. Reasons given by the commission included a reluctance to allow a portion of the Cross Timbers Urban Forest to be torn down and hesitation to amend the town’s master plan, allowing a big-box retail store to be built in a FEMA-designated flood plain.

It's not clear from Bursiaga's interview whether the issue of the flood plain will be resolved in time for Monday's meeting.
“FEMA has zoned this area as a flood plain,” [Bursiaga] said. “With our detailed analysis and our professional engineering company that specializes in flood, we’ve submitted two reports to staff and they are still trying to determine what the flood plain actually is.”

Members of the Planning and Zoning previously faulted Burciaga for not submitting flood plain information, even after “more than ample time was given.”

“We’re working on the third report,” he said. “We are working aggressively with staff to agree on what the flood plain is. The gentleman that we have is Jim O’Brian out of Dallas. He has done work with the military, and has done work with different governments in determining what flood issues might plague a site. He has issued his opinion on what flood is on this site, and we are in the process of agreeing with staff what the flood is on a portion of the property.”

If you are a resident of Flower Mound, you can weigh in on the issue by sending email prior to Monday's meeting. Then watch the meeting live.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Covenant marriage bill introduced by Arlington legislator

An op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram begins with this commentary about a proposed bill, introduced by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, to allow couples to opt into a covenant marriage.

From the party of less goverment comes the latest initiative emblematic of a nanny state: covenant marriage.

The Texas Republican Party adopted as part of its platform the establishment of a covenant marriage option in the Lone Star State.

Arlington state Rep. Bill Zedler stepped forward as the point man on the issue when he filed a bill this week that would allow couples to opt into such a marriage by attending state-paid premarital counseling. Should the union turn sour — as defined by adultery, physical or sexual abuse, felony conviction, or living separately for at least three years — couples would have to attend counseling and go through a two-year separation before a judge could hear the divorce case.

Zedler and the proponents of covenant marriage have worthy goals: strengthening families and stemming the divorce rate in Texas, which is 4.1 per 1,000 population. Premarital and pre-divorce counseling in a nation in which 40 percent of all unions end in a split is a capital idea.

But is it an idea that every Texas taxpayer should be underwriting?

Well, no. And that was the conclusion the legislature came to the last time this concept was introduced. The FWST editorial gives several good reasons why the legislature should not be wasting their time again on such a bill, including the extremely low rate of participation in states where covenant marriages are already law. The Texas Freedom Network highlights some others, including the fact that covenant marriage is dangerous to victims of domestic violence.

Ironically, the representative who prevented its introduction to the floor was another Arlington legislator, out-going vice chair of the House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues, Rep. Toby Goodman, who was defeated in November by Democrat Paul Hightower Pierson. Said Goodman, a divorce attorney, of his reasons for quashing the bill:

"I think they were misguided. I think they were filed for political reasons,"Goodman said.

"You cannot legislate marital bliss."

Monday, December 11, 2006

ntl nominated in capitol annex readers' choice awards

North Texas Liberal has been nominated in the Capitol Annex Best & Worst of 2006 Readers' Choice Awards for the Best Regional Blog Award. We are honored to be nominated alongside several other prime examples of terrific regional blogging here in Texas. Thanks to our readers for nominating us and getting us past the first round of voting!

If you enjoy our blog, why not vote for us? You'll also get to vote in several other interesting categories to decide the Best & Worst of Texas politics over the past year.

VOTE for North Texas Liberal for Best Texas Politics Regional Blog!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Burgess to Serve as Vice Chair of GOP Policy Committee

The GOP has tapped Michael Burgess (TX-26) to serve as Vice Chair of the GOP Policy Committee. The committee, according to a release by Burgess
....serves as a formal council to meet regularly to facilitate the formulation and carrying out of national policy, and to improve relationships between the executive and legislative branches of government.
Burgess joins another Texan, Kay Granger, appointed as GOP Conference Vice Chair, in the GOP leadership ranks.

The GOP Policy Committee is headed by Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, who had this to say about his election.
U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a Livonia Republican who ascended to the chairmanship of the influential House Republican Policy Committee, knows it was more than his charm, popularity and dry sense of humor that led to the post.

There's some history to the new position. Past chairmen have included former President Gerald Ford and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"There's a lot of bald guys on that committee. It seems to be the official bald guys' spot," he said. "That's the only reason I got it."
Do you really think he's trying to bring our attention to his hair, or hint at larger political aspirations? Anyway, it was clever.

He also had this to say about Iraq.
Right off the bat, we need to make sure to have a policy that will bring victory in Iraq," said McCotter. "That is the No. 1 issue on the American public's mind."
In his defense, this quote was from November, before James Baker put the lie to that part about "victory." But here's the important part: The GOP Policy Committee is putting Iraq front and center, and a North Texas congressman is number two on that committee. It sounds like a good time for North Texans to remind Congressman Burgess what the November elections were all about.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

ntl remembers pearl harbor

Today, NTL honors the men and women that died in the attack on Pearl Harbor 65 years ago today. The surprise attack by the Japanese spurred President Roosevelt to enter U.S. troops into WWII.

Yahoo! News has an excellent story on today's memorial service.

Nearly 500 survivors bowed their heads at 7:55 a.m., the minute planes began bombing the harbor in a surprise attack that thrust the United States into World War II.

"America in an instant became the land of the indivisible," said former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, the author of "The Greatest Generation," who spoke at the shoreside ceremonies. "There are so many lessons from that time for our time, none greater than the idea of one nation greater than the sum of its parts."

The veterans, most in Hawaiian aloha shirts, were honored with prolonged applause at the solemn ceremony near where some of the ships remain rusting and moss-covered under the harbor's waters.

Many were treating the gathering as their last, uncertain if they would be alive or healthy enough to travel to Hawaii for the next big memorial ceremony, the 70th anniversary.

"It is because of you and people like you that we have the freedoms we enjoy today," Capt. Taylor Skardon said after relating each ship's story at the end of the ceremony.

Please join us in honoring our WWII veterans and those that made their final sacrifice on Dec. 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Why You Really Should Have Voted for Radnofsky

Texas, you had your chance. You could have elected an intelligent, intellectually honest lawmaker who was dedicated to ending the conflict in Iraq. Instead, you voted Kay Bailey Hutchison back in office by a wide margin.

As further proof of the folly of that vote, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram offers us reactions from Texas politicians to the much-hailed Iraq Study Group Report. In a sidebar beside an article headlined "Panel concludes Bush's war policies have largely failed," Senator Hutchison offers this assessment:
Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison: "A well-thought-out report. ... Having the Arab countries step up to the plate is a very good suggestion. I do not think it was in any way a repudiation [of the Bush administration's policy]....."
This is the woman that Republicans are kicking around as a possible Vice Presidential nominee. Seriously.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

texan of the year: carolyn boyle/parent pac

Carolyn Boyle & Parent PAC

AUSTIN - The Texas Progressive Alliance has named Carolyn Boyle and Texas Parent PAC as its "Texan of the Year" for 2006.

The Alliance announced Boyle's selection on Wednesday following several days of discussion and voting among writers, editors and owners of some of the state's most prominent and often read progressive political blogs.

Boyle and Texas Parent PAC were among more than 40 individuals and organizations initially nominated for the honor by the bloggers. The race for Texan of the Year was very close due to the many influential organizations and candidates that played a role in Texas politics during 2006. Other finalists who were neck-and-neck with Boyle and the Parent PAC included the Dallas County Democratic Party (for their transformation of the political landscape in Dallas County) and State Rep.-elect Juan Garcia (D-Corpus Christi), for the high quality campaign he waged leading to his defeat of Rep. Gene Seaman (R-Corpus Christi) in a tough district.

The selection of Boyle and Texas Parent PAC recognizes the tremendous impact both Boyle--individually--and the PAC had on Texas politics in 2006.

Texas Parent PAC was founded in 2005 by Boyle, a former public relations executive who is well-known inthe Texas Capitol as an advocate for Texas public schools.

Read the entire press release from the Texas Progressive Alliance at Capitol Annex. NTL congratulates Boyle and the Parent PAC for the distinguished honor.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Petitioners Gather Signatures to Put Immigration Issue on Ballot

A group known as "Let the Voters Decide" was in Farmers Branch this weekend gathering petitions to put its immigration ordinance on the ballot. Volunteers were walking in several neighborhoods, asking registered voters to sign a petition challenging the ordinance that requires landlords to verify proof of citizenship or residency for every tenant. The group has a week to sign up 5% of registered voters based on last May's election in order to get the ordinance on the ballot. This works out to about 726 valid signatures.

The controversial measures passed by council have brought national attention to this town of 30,000 in Dallas County. The ordinances, put forth by councilman Tim O'Hare, also include making English the official language and another one enabling the Police Department to check the residency status of people arrested for a crime. A fourth provision that would have made employers criminally responsible for hiring illegals was withdrawn. The petition being circulated targets only the landlord ordinance.

Reactions of residents to the measures vary. Some are extremely embarrassed and feel that the ordinances do not reflect the tolerant community in which they live. Others adamantly feel that the council did the right thing. Most agree that the city laws are a poor substitute for comprehensive federal immigration reform.

And not all signers of the petition are in favor of repealing the ordinance. Some residents feel that such a controversial issue should be subject to wider debate, but still expected the majority of Farmers Branch voters to support the ordinance. City council members seem content to let the issue be decided by "the will of the people."

City Council member Tim O'Hare said the petition process is a good check on the City Council, but he's confident voters would back the ordinance if it came to a vote.

"I don't think it will be close," he said.

Mayor Bob Phelps said residents have the right to gather signatures. "If they do that and the city secretary certifies everything, then I certainly have no problem with it," he said.

As of this weekend, the petition drive appeared to be going well. If enough signatures are validated, the ordinance could be brought before the Farmers Branch town council for a revote. If town council still supports the ordinance, it would be put on the May ballot for voter approval. If the ordinance takes effect in January, as planned, several groups stand ready to file lawsuits to prevent its enforcement.