Constitutional Law

Exasperated Arkansas Town Ignores Constitution

Arkansas town attempts to bring back totalitarianism.

Most people would expect that a post discussing unconstitutional behavior from a town in Arkansas would have something to do with religion. And in fairness, new ordinances from the city council of Gould, Arkansas do raise First Amendment concerns.

But the Gould city council isn’t trying to impose its view of God upon the public sphere. Instead, Gould just decided to ignore the protections for freedom of association. Apparently things have gotten so contentious between the city council and the mayor that the council has prohibited the mayor from meeting with people without the council’s approval.

And then the council decided to make it illegal to form any kind of group, whatsoever, without city council approval.

So yeah, Gould, Arkansas: Now technically home to one of the most totalitarian regimes in the Western Hemisphere…

The New York Times has the story of Gould:

The City Council adopted an ordinance last week making it illegal to form any kind of group without its permission…

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 [Earnest Nash Jr.], the advisory group [Gould Citizens Advisory Council] 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.

And the council is a step short of making Mayor Nash install a subcutaneous GPS tracker in his cheek:

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.

That’s right: the Gould city council thinks it has jurisdiction over who Mayor Nash meets with in, say, Little Rock.

To call these measures unconstitutional is an understatement:

“These ordinances are blatantly unconstitutional,” Mr. Nash said. “For the most part, people are just ignoring them.”

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.

But Ms. Farley said the Council was frustrated with the mayor’s tendency to hold community meetings without advertising them to the entire town.

Sonya Farley and anybody else who voted for these laws should be impeached or recalled or in some other way be prevented from voting on laws ever again. I don’t care how “frustrated” you are with the mayor, if you instinct is to veto liberty then you have no business holding elected office.

It’s comical because it’s happening in a place in Arkansas nobody has ever heard of. But this is the kind of idiot behavior public officials should be held accountable for. This kind of stuff is way more offensive than sending out inappropriate pictures on Twitter.

Arkansas Town Draws a Line on Clubs [New York Times]

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