Friday, November 7, 2014

Do Elected Officials Maintain Common Sense After Elections?

Everyone by now has heard about the openly lesbian mayor of Houston who has singed an ordinance which allows people of the city to use any bathroom that is open to the public, male or female, depending on what "gender they identify with." It matters not what gender they are, says the mayor. What matters is who they identify with. In other words, a man can now legally enter a women's bathroom in a mall just by saying he identifies as a female.

Understandably, many people are upset about it and believe it could lead to many problems, particularly sexual predators using it as an excuse to get close to victims. Imagine a peeping Tom dressing as a woman so he can enter the lady's room to see what he can see? Unimaginable? Certainly not in today's society.
A group of five Christian pastors led a petition drive to reverse the ordinance. They garnered over 50,000 signatures - three times the number of signatures necessary to place the ordinance on a ballot so the people can decide whether or not it's something they want in their city. Subsequently, the city's legal office subpoenaed sermons, speeches and other public remarks made by those pastors, ostensibly to see if they were "using their churches for political reasons."

A legal firm, representing the pastors pro bono, have taken up the cause saying that the city's subpoena of the sermons violates the First Amendment. Senator Ted Cruz and others have also criticized the mayor's office.

“For far too long, the federal government has led an assault against religious liberty, and now, sadly, my hometown of Houston is joining the fight,” Mr. Cruz said in a statement. “This is wrong. It’s unbefitting of Texans, and it’s un-American.”

I must agree - not only about the subpoenas but about the ordinance as well. In 2006, the LGBT community made up 4.4% of the population of the City of Houston. So 8 years later it could be as high as 8 or 9%. That leaves over 90% of the population that is not part of that community. So I would bet that the majority of Houstonians (?) are against this new ordinance for a variety of reasons. Even though the numbers of LGBT supporters are growing I would still make that bet. And the mayor should be checking with all of her constituents before passing such a major ordinance. Such a small minority should not be dictating the moral behaviors of such a large majority.

The mayor, reacting to pressure from the pastors' attorneys and the public, has backed off of her request for sermons and speeches, but not before attempting to justify the subpoenas by saying the pastors were politicizing the pulpits. She obviously doesn't understand that for most Christian pastors this is a moral and Biblical issue rather than a political one.

Now let's move West on I-10 to the lovely city of San Antonio. A liberal city on the San Antonio River, it's home to The Alamo, the River Walk, the Tower of the Americas and many other interesting and historical attractions. I always enjoy visiting and have several good friends who live there.

On the radio yesterday I heard about a new city ordinance in San Antonio that is just another example of the loss of common sense by elected officials. Beginning in January of 2015, hand held cell phone use will be illegal while operating a motor vehicle. 

The law - 19-255, begins with "(1) ENGAGING IN A CALL means talking to, dialing, or listening on a hand-held mobile telephone, but does not include holding a mobile telephone to activate or deactivate the device."

You may use a phone that is mounted to the vehicle, on speaker mode, or via a Bluetooth device but you cannot hold it, even for GPS use.

An article I read said that one of the reasons they passed the ordinance is because last year a six year old girl was struck and killed by a driver who admittedly dropped his cell phone and was searching for it on the floorboards, distracting him while he was driving. 

“If he didn't have the cell phone he wouldn't have lost control of his cell phone and my grandson would still be alive,” Stephen Abrams told the court.

While my heart breaks for this grandfather and the girl's parents, the driver wasn't distracted by talking on the phone. He dropped the phone and instead of pulling over to search for it he searched for it while continuing to drive. That can happen if you are eating a sandwich and drop it. And how many of us have spilled coffee or soda on ourselves while driving? Will they next outlaw eating and/or drinking while driving?

This seems like nothing more than a money making scheme for the city. Why do I say that? Section (f) of the ordinance - the next to the last section. "(f) An offense under this section is not a moving violation and may not be made a part of a person’s driving record or insurance record."

They're not going to make it a moving violation or give you points for using a phone. They're simply going to fine you $200. I can't help but wonder if the police officer who pulls you over will say "Go and sin once more," after writing the citation...?

The other interesting section exempts all EMS personnel from the ordinance if they are on duty.

"(4) by a person who is an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle while acting in an official capacity;"

...because we all know that EMS personnel, whose vehicles are fully loaded with communications equipment from radios to computers, need to be able to make their calls while driving.

Fortunately, the law does allow drivers to call 911 to report an emergency or illegal activity. 

While I am OK with banning texting while driving (because it takes rapt attention to type a message on a phone), talking on the phone while driving, whether it's a hand held or mounted phone, is really no more distracting than having a conversation with a passenger or disciplining your kids in the back seat. Dialing the phone is distracting - even if you're using a mounted phone - unless you're using voice dial. But how many people do that?

Setting a GPS system while driving is just as dangerous as texting. And with this new law, even if I set my GPS on my hand held phone and set it on the dashboard I will be in violation of the law because I'm using a phone that is not mounted to the vehicle. How much sense does that really make?

People will undoubtedly violate the ordinance anyway. It's human nature. Cell phones have a tendency to make people feel self-important, as evidenced by people who use their phones in movie theaters, restaurants, etc., completely oblivious to what's going on around them. I doubt this law will change that. About the only thing it will change is the revenue for the city. But isn't that the idea?

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