Thursday, July 12, 2012
We can always tell when election season has slunk into Jackson here at the JFP. For one thing, lots of folks using fake names start to complain about us because we don't love their candidates or hate their opponents enough. So the nastygrams start appearing about the paper and our staff, down to intelligent analysis of our various body parts.
The second sign is that we start seeing a lot of ridiculous and probably unconstitutional legislation clearly designed to get candidates elected or re-elected. You know the kind we mean: baggy-pants ordinances, as if the government has the right to tell people, even kids, what they can wear in public. Wink-wink efforts to crack down on immigrants or to eliminate abortion. (We cynically believe that most politicians attack abortion rights with a forked tongue because they know the courts will turn them back—after expensive legal battles).
Then, last week, City Councilman Quentin Whitwell brought up the perennial Ward 1 anti-homeless assault—targeting beggars outside his ward. He would like to see people asking for money to go to jail for 30 days and pay fines. Beyond the sheer mean-spiritedness of such an ordinance, how does this make sense? They don't have money; that's why they're begging. And jail someone for walking up to someone to ask for money? We shudder to think about it.
Now, if those beggars are, in fact, physically "accosting" people downtown as Whitwell claimed, then there are existing laws against assaults that should be enforced. We suspect that Whitwell wants to be able to say that he fought the vagrants during his upcoming re-election, but this attempt is as silly, and short-sighted, as Kenneth Stokes' continual effort to outlaw baggy pants.
Or, call them frivolous laws.
This also brings to mind state Republicans' passion for two state laws, both of which seem clearly unconstitutional. Their effort to shut down the state's only abortion clinic may backfire precisely because lawmakers didn't bother to hide their zeal for "eliminating abortion" in our state—which means the motive is to violate Mississippian's constitutional right to choose abortion.
The other is the state's ridiculous voter ID law, which we expect to be shot down by the U.S. Department of Justice, considering our state's disenfranchisement history and the fact that supporters cannot show evidence that is actually needed. Regardless, though, expect Republicans statewide to campaign on how they tried to clean up all the so-called voter fraud that they can't seem to prove.
Of course, all this posturing over bad laws takes time and resources away from our actual problems and needs in the state. And that's tragic. We call for a higher level of campaigning going forward, especially on the local level.
Y'all can do better, and we expect you to.