October 16, 2007

City Strobe

Hawkins: End services for illegalsLouisville, we have a problem. Maybe. But just in case, Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins, R-25, has presented a nonbinding resolution that would eventually lead to illegal immigrants being denied some public services. Political action against illegal immigrants is hitting closer to home as the federal government continues to tread water on the issue amid a near-constant cry from the far right to close America’s borders and, in some cases, to advocate violence against illegals. Hawkins’ resolution calls for Metro agencies to list what services could be denied to illegal immigrants, institute training for Metro employees so they can identify fake citizenship documents, and for police to brush up on procedure for turning over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.He wants the same type of federal funding Gov. Ernie Fletcher has requested to train state police for immigration enforcement. Hawkins’ resolution is a test, and if it passes the council, he said he will propose an ordinance that would deny illegal immigrants access to services that are unprotected by federal law — things like emergency healthcare or disaster relief would not be affected.Hawkins said a prudent government would already have policies in place for dealing with illegal immigrants, and that he has been called “mean-spirited” when his aim is simply to protect the community’s finite resources. On the other hand, he said his office has received 400-500 phone calls, e-mails and personal contacts in favor of the resolution, and only about 10 against it.“Even if I’m wrong, we need to have something in place to tell these constituents, ‘Hey, we’re not being taken advantage of,’” Hawkins said.Those accusations might stem from the fact that he is unable to produce any motivation for the ordinance other than the anti-immigration hysteria that is sweeping the country. In the same breath that he says he hopes he is wrong and simply wants to assess illegal immigrants’ use of public resources, he insists the situation is dire. Hawkins cited constituents, citizens working without healthcare, angered at illegal immigrants getting services at public clinics — how his constituents know they are here illegally, though, he did not know.Nor could he explain his claim that police do not have sufficient information to identify illegal immigrants, just a moment after saying Kentucky currently has about 500 people in custody eligible for deportation. It might just be, though, that people are a little suspicious of his frequent use of the term “foreign nationals” when referring to illegal immigrants, as if there is no difference between the two. —Jennifer OladipoMajority leader serves platitudes for breakfast at U of LIf you watch cable news, you know one absolute truth about American government: The halls of Congress are filled with partisan hacks who hate each other and strive to do harm to their intellectual counterparts by any means necessary.But perhaps you see through this veneer and understand that a show is a show, meant above all to entertain, which especially applies to 24-hour news networks, which barely even entertain anymore. On this note, consider that Congressional arch-nemeses appeared together Monday in Louisville, and spent much of the time telling of each other’s triumphant accomplishments — both in life and politics. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, spoke to a packed auditorium at the University of Louisville, riffing on a note of conviviality with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, who also appeared to make a joke from the podium at The Courier-Journal’s expense, the slight crease between his lips leaving little doubt as to the intent of the swipe.All this backslapping leaves one contemplating: Which version of reality is the charade, the genuine “I care about my opponent” or the Tom DeLay destroy-my-enemies-at-all-costs trope common among the halls of Congress since 2000?There were a few drips of substance, however. Reid, who was elected to the U.S. House in 1982 and the Senate four years later, talked about the need to promote fuel alternatives like wind and solar power, the “backwardness” of the American auto industry and its powerful oil lobby cohort, his fondness for unions, and his opposition to the Iraq war.“Iraq is the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of our country,” he said to uncomfortable applause, some of which came from a small group of protestors holding handmade signs and “Ditch Mitch” stickers.Reid also gave what amounted to a public apology for his party’s failure to follow through on last year’s campaign pledges, most notably ending the war in Iraq, when he mentioned how his party’s slight majority in the Senate — 51-49 — makes it difficult to pass any broad Democratic agenda items. He would have to convince 20 percent of the Republicans in the Senate to go along with any vote. That kind of bargaining may be on display in the House this week, when the Democrats are expected to push to override President Bush’s veto of a recent bill to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, aka S-CHIP.The two men — ostensibly the most powerful members of Congress — paid one another high compliments on professionalism and a willingness to work together behind the scenes. It was a sensational stroke-off, a rare opportunity to put to rest the popular notion that guys like McConnell and Reid are passionate fighters for their causes rather than hackneyed retreads of their pragmatist predecessors before the W era.McConnell called Reid a “credit to his party.” Reid called McConnell “the best competition there is.” None of the pending, pertinent or controversial issues currently on their parties’ dockets were discussed. But hey, it was a guest appearance at 8 a.m. on a Monday, and Reid ate a Hot Brown for dinner the night before. As anyone who’s had that delicious open-faced feast knows, it only causes one kind of stir. —Stephen GeorgeChallenge to wet/dry voteOwners of liquor stores affected by a recent vote to ban liquor sales in four West Louisville precincts filed lawsuits in Jefferson Circuit Court last week, challenging the legitimacy of the special election and requesting an injunction that would allow them to continue selling booze after Nov. 10, when the new law would take effect.Among other things, the suits contend that there were illegal polling sites and improper campaigning by Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, a champion of the “dry” cause. Last week, Hamilton and several religious leaders held a press conference alleging that “wet” residents — perhaps organized by storeowners — had launched a campaign to intimidate voters and convince them to sign forms alleging election irregularities. Seven out of eight voters decided to go dry in a Sept. 11 special election. Proponents of the ban say it will help reduce crime in the area. —SGContact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com