The City of San Antonio says it plans to rewrite the portions of the
City Parade Ordinance Judge Xavier Rodriguez labeled unconstitutional yesterday
as early as the first part of March. Council passed the new ordinance
in late November, and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition immediately
filed a lawsuit objecting to several provisions, including the
seemingly arbitrary method for assessing permit fees and the lack of
options for groups who can't pay the estimated traffic-control and
cleanup costs. Judge Rodriguez's order prevents the City from enforcing
the ordinance as it is written.
Rodriguez issued the preliminary injunction based on three provisions he
found unconstitutional: the wide discretion accorded the police chief
in assessing costs, the conflation of traffic-control costs with
"security" costs, and the exemption of funeral processions and
government agencies operating within the scope of their functions.
"We're actually pleased with the decision, those are easy fixes," City
Attorney Michael Bernard told the Current.
"We'll have to take out the exemptions for funerals and government
entities, [and] we have to make clear that the costs will be solely for
traffic control, not safety -- which we thought we had done ... that
was the intent."
The City can ask the court to review the revamped ordinance and lift
the injunction if the judge's objections have been met. Free
Speech Coalition attorney Amy Kastely said that even if the City
successfully corrects those terms, they will proceed with the suit on
the grounds that the ordinance favors some First Amendment marches over
others, and doesn't provide adequate alternatives for indigent groups.
The plaintiffs have been gathering evidence for their October 14 trial
date, which, Kastely says, shows a pattern of favoritism and
inconsistent fee assessment.
Bernard says he's not worried.
"All that is under the old ordinance, when much more discretion was
granted," he said. "That was the point [of the new ordinance]."
Bernard is, it seems, a confident guy in general, telling the Current (who was
foolish enough to ask whether the City would be seeking guidance as it
works to make its Parade Ordinance constitutional -- after all, it's
not like after eight years of Bush we're all super-fresh on the full
potential of the word): "I can read the court order. I don't
particularly need advice."
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