It’s not over


To be sure, Mike Hanson and Welsh poet Dylan Thomas might see eye to eye, at least in regards to Thomas’ counsel of “do not go gentle into that good night.”

Because Hanson isn’t.

And he’s not finished with the Gonzales City Council in his crusade to repeal what he believes to be a garage sale ordinance that he claims tramples upon his inalienable rights as a Texan.

“We can come back and do it all over again,” Hanson said after the City Council rejected his petition to repeal the ordinance after it was determined there were not enough verified signatures by Gonzales registered voters.

“We’ll go back and get their signatures again, and then we’ll get plenty to cover it this time,” Hanson promised.

But re-circulating the petition is Option 2 for Hanson, now that the City Council’s decision at its meeting Tuesday night keeps in place the ordinance from Sept. 13 requiring a permit for garage sales within the city limits and allows only one such sale during a six-month period.

Option 1 for Hanson is to secure a ruling from Gonzales County Judge David Bird regarding the city’s position about municipal elections and the number of petition signatures required to force the City Council to act on what Hanson terms “the will of the people.”

“We’re gonna take it up with Judge Bird. We’re going to Judge Bird to get ’em to decide, we’re gonna get our petition back, and we’re gonna go get Judge Bird to decide,” Hanson said. “Because that’s what the (city) charter says is the next step.”

But Bird wants to review with Gonzales city attorney Jackie Williamson why the county would have jurisdiction on a city issue.

“I don’t know why they’re dragging me into this,” Bird said Thursday, who had yet to talk with Williamson.

When Hanson began the petition process in late September, he set his sights on collecting a minimum of 405 signatures, which would be 20 percent of the 2,023 residents who voted in the May 8, 2010, municipal election. The city charter stipulates that a “petition must be signed by qualified voters of the city equal in number to 20 percent of the number of votes cast in the last regular municipal election of the city, or 150, whichever is greater.”

After Hanson presented his petition bearing 417 signatures to city secretary Candice Witzkoske on Oct. 13, Gonzales County voter register deputy George Ara reviewed the signatures and determined that 88 who signed the petition were not registered to vote in the city of Gonzales. The disqualifications reduced the number of qualified signatures to 329, well short of the required 405.

But Hanson claims the May 8, 2010, municipal election was not the last election, and that a May 2011 election that was scheduled but later canceled should be considered, reducing the number of signatures required to 150.

“The election they should have been going by is May 2011, which would make it 150 votes. That’s all we would have had to get,” Hanson said.

“[City Council] were claiming we had to get 20 percent of 2,001 (votes). We have pointed out that, even though they canceled the election, the last municipal election was when they didn’t have anybody running against them, so that’s why they have the 150 in the clause to go back to 150. But five people (City Council) did vote, they voted to get ’em in. We did have a vote, it was an election. It was a legitimate election. So, we know we’re right on this, because 150 is all we had to get and we got 417. They did knock some out,” he said.

But Williamson doesn’t see it that way, and she says her opinion is supported by the legal experts at the Texas Municipal League, a non-profit association which exists solely to provide services to Texas cities.

“That’s not the way the charter reads,” Williamson said of Hanson’s claim. “So I totally disagree with his interpretation of that.”

That’s why Hanson is headed to Judge Bird’s office.

If it is determined the county has jurisdiction over municipal matters, but should Bird uphold the City Council’s ruling, Hanson says he’s far from finished.

“We also found out that if Judge Bird won’t go our way, we can do it all over again. We go back to those 365 people and get more,” he said of restarting the petition process.

It was Williamson’s recommendation to council Tuesday that set in motion Hanson’s plans to take the matter to Bird and to keep his options open for re-circulating his petition.

“The petition submitted to the city has been reviewed, and there were not enough signatures of registered voters within the city, and I, therefore, recommend that it be rejected,” Williamson told City Council.

After Tommy Schurig made a motion to reject the petition and it was seconded by Bobby Logan, Lorenzo Hernandez sought counsel from Williamson and his fellow council members.

“At this time, can we work with these folks in some kind of way? Can we maybe look at the fees, and if they’re willing to negotiate, give them maybe four (sales) a year?” Hernandez proposed.

However, city manager Allen Barnes cut short the discussion, citing the Open Meetings Act and recommended that the City Council direct staff to bring the item back to City Council on Dec. 6 with any adjustments.

But Hernandez’s olive branch was not acceptable to Hanson.

“Now they’re wanting to negotiate,” Hanson said. “We’re not willing to negotiate our liberty away.

“We think it’s a violation to have to come down here to get a permit. That’s what we’re against. We’re not against having four a year or something like that. It’s against the violation of us havin’ to have to come down here to get a permit. If I wake up on a Saturday and want to have a garage sale, ‘Oh, I forgot to get a permit on Friday.’ That’s a violation of our property rights.

“If I want to have a garage sale, I’m gonna have a garage sale. I don’t care what the police chief says,” Hanson said defiantly. “He’s gonna give little old women $500 fines, is what he told me.”

Hanson took jabs at Schurig, in particular, and the entire City Council, in general, claiming that they are not adequately representing their constituents.

“If these people (City Council) don’t want to do the will of the people, then vote the bums out,” Hanson recommended. He suggested Simon Cantu as a possible replacement for the current council members.

But Roger Eberle, who told the City Council he is in favor of controlling garage sales by use of a permit addressing a specific time period for the sale and addressing posting and removing signs related to garage sales, has a pretty good reason for attending virtually every meeting.

“The only reason I come to City Council is because it’s more interesting than TV,” he says.

Stay tuned.

In other business Tuesday night, the City Council approved longevity pay for city employees.

“It’s been since 2008 since we’ve had an opportunity for all employee to have a pay raise. We have not had longevity pay since 2008,” Barnes told the City Council.

With the city receiving significant increased revenues from oil and gas and sales tax, “it appears that we are on financial course to be able to afford to do longevity pay,” Barnes said.

“This would send a huge message to our employees that they are appreciated.”

Barnes recommended that the City Council evaluate finances each October or November to determine if employee longevity payments can be made.

Council approved payment of $48 per year multiplied by up to 25 years for all eligible employees. Barnes said the expense for 2011 is forecast at $43,675.

The City Council also approved an amendment to the budget of $10,000 to cover unanticipated expenses associated with fire department vehicle and equipment repairs.

“These repairs are for mostly the three engines we’ve got in the station. These are catastrophic repairs, they were unanticipated. We had no clue they were going to break. Almost all of our trucks have some type of repairs in the last three or four months,” Fire Chief Keith Schmidt said, citing a particularly active firefighting season.