Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Relative

Since we moved to Bozeman I've gotten to know and appreciate my brother-in-law Jack much better. He braved the Montana winter to spend a week with us around Christmas and was a gracious and generous host to our oldest two kids during their trip down to Texas early this last summer.

The purported purchaser
Sam Houston State ROTC
Jack and his sister own and operate a business -- Wagamon Printing it is called. Jack is not the shy and retiring type and he actually does buy ink by the barrel. A number of years back he got up in arms about how the landed gentry in his home town were pulling strings with the local government to receive property tax abatements and divert funding from critical infrastructure projects in residential areas to support commercial development that served insider land holdings. So Jack pulled a Ben Franklin. He geared up a printing press to publish a newsletter ("The Taxpayer") that he distributed to voters exposing questionable transactions and back room shenanigans. He then ran for and was successful in securing a seat on the city council where instead of being merely a thorn in the side, he became a thorn on the dais.

Jack lives in Huntsville, Texas, which is best known for being the home of the state penitentiary that includes the state's execution chamber. It is also the home of Sam Houston State University, with its 18,400 students in 80 undergraduate, 54 masters', and 6 doctoral degree programs. Its alumni include newscaster Dan Rather and film director and screenwriter Richard Linklater, best known for the cult movie, Dazed and Confused.  

Huntsville Item reports on the SHSU scheme.
Anyhow, it seems like Sam Houston State was flexing its muscles, and aiming to buy up some local property at a near confiscatory price using the power of eminent domain. Jack noticed. While he may not be a city councilman anymore he still has his critic's pen and he used it to communicate with the local rag.
The sole issue is that the state is attempting to steal property from a private citizen.
Rest assured I am not using the word “steal” lightly in this context. When Dana Gibson chose to lie to the attorney general in order to con the state of Texas into misusing eminent domain, THAT IS STEALING. There is no good way to say it because what she is doing is that bad. For her to say that the property is “critical” to the operation of SHSU is ridiculous on its face. While it may serve a critical function in saving her pride and Al Hooten’s credibility, I can assure you Sam Houston will continue to operate with or without the property in question.
While the battle rages on between the state and Mr. Maalouf, do not be distracted by rhetoric concerning the “proper use” of the property or the “best use” as far as the “community” is concerned. As a citizen of the United States of America, I am insulted that someone would have the nerve to write to the newspaper saying what Mr. Maalouf should or should not do with his property.
And when I say “someone,” I mean Sally Nelson, in her letter to the editor in the Sept. 11 edition of The Huntsville Item. What Mr. Maalouf or anyone else does with their property is none of their business. Ms. Nelson and Dana Gibson need to BACK OFF! If this sounds mean, it’s supposed to. It’s about time somebody got angry and came to Mr. Maalouf’s defense by calling a lie a lie and stealing what it is — STEALING!
As a property owner and taxpayer, I am angry beyond words that my hometown university is trying to steal prime, main street, retail property from a businessman whose only crime was to put in the winning bid on a piece of land.
While we’re at it, I am insulted as a veteran of the U.S. Army that Dana Gibson is trying to use the ROTC program and veterans as an excuse to try and take Mr. Maalouf’s property. This does not reflect the values or spirit of the Constitution of the great country I and every other veteran took a blood oath to protect.
In closing, I would encourage our citizens and particularly our business owners to speak out against this terrible injustice taking place in our town. It is not enough to say it behind closed doors at a time like this. If Dana Gibson gets away with this, no one’s property will be safe.
Whoa baby!  I love it!  No holds barred verbal sparring.  Calling out the smile sweetly and stab you in the back "community" lovers. Thwack!  Boffo!  Defending constitutional values!  Go for it!  

A few days later, Sam Houston State gave in.  The Huntsville Item reported,
HUNTSVILLE — Sam Houston State University will no longer pursue acquisition of the Army Reserve building property at 2257 Sam Houston Ave., SHSU President Dana Gibson announced Monday.
Gibson released a statement midday Monday that the university would find an alternative solution for its ROTC and Veterans Affairs programs.
She and other SHSU officials declined to comment on their decision after an almost three-month contest with the city of Huntsville and the buyer of the property, Tarek Maalouf.
The newspaper continued,
The public dispute at times turned contentious. Members of the Huntsville community, Voters for Lower Taxes, the Sam Houston Tea Party, and protest group Eminent Doom came together to protest not only proposed action by SHSU, but against eminent domain as a practice for acquiring land in a case like this one.
Maalouf, also owner of the Draft Bar, accused the university of retaliating against him after he put up signs around the bar and army reserve building property that read, “Don’t Take My Land.”
Maalouf and his attorney Lanny Ray complained that SHSU police issued an unusual series of tickets Aug. 28 to Draft Bar patrons, including those who parked across the street from the bar on Sam Houston Avenue after 5 p.m. in a parking lot assigned to faculty, staff across from the bar.
By the way, Jack's business also produces signs -- just saying. The police state tried its hardest, but this is a victory for the Tea Party, Jack, the sanctity of private property and good government supporters everywhere. Congratulations Jack and friends!

Don't Take My Land signs ringing the subject property.


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