A citizens’ rights tragedy is occurring in Plano. The tragedy isn’t just city officials’ disregard for over 4,000 legal petitioners against the city’s Comprehensive Plan, commonly called the Plano Tomorrow Plan, but a tragic loss of rights for all Plano citizens — and all Texas citizens too!
It doesn’t matter if you are for or against the Plano Tomorrow plan. What matters is this: “If you have a complaint against what the Plano mayor, city council, or hired management is doing, then you have the right to bring a petition to the secretary’s office.” The petition would then be reviewed and, if enough valid signatures have been obtained, it would then go to the city council.
The group that brought this legal petition against the Plano Tomorrow plan, and all citizens of Plano, has been stripped of their legal course of action against the city’s leadership that acted with impunity.
Plano’s legal beagles want to link the comprehensive plan to Texas zoning laws, which are supposed to be so complex that common citizens can’t understand them and thereby they cannot be petitioned.
While I am not a lawyer, Texas lawmakers were pretty clear that a comprehensive plan is not a zoning regulation. Title 7, Sec. 213.005 of Texas Local Government Code states:
NOTATION ON MAP OF COMPREHENSIVE PLAN. A map of a comprehensive plan illustrating future land use shall contain the following clearly visible statement: “A comprehensive plan shall not constitute zoning regulations or establish zoning district boundaries.”
Texas law clearly states that a comprehensive plan is not a zoning regulation. Could it be any simpler?
Therefore, the petition against the Plano Tomorrow plan was legal, and it will be verified by an honest district judge in McKinney. A decision in favor of the city would lead to the loss of citizens’ rights across the whole state of Texas!
It is too bad that the judicial and legal system of Texas has allowed the city of Plano to maneuver and delay for several years to keep the petition from proceeding to the city council. This was the city’s plan: DELAY! DELAY! DELAY! And push Plano Tomorrow into action. The legal system should have forced the city to put the plan on ice until the petition issue was resolved.
In addition, the city wants to persuade a judge that a comprehensive plan is like other complex municipal planning documents, which the average citizen could not possibly understand. When one looks at the educational level of the citizens of Plano — one of the highest per capita in the nation, with many citizens having engineering and other highly technical degrees — I am pretty sure this is not the case at all. It is just a conniving way to take away citizens’ rights to petition against overzealous city leadership backed by the wealthy with special interests.
Plano’s leadership and lead lawyer actually acted unethically when they directed the city secretary to not count the votes and forward the petition to the city council. These actions have allowed the city to put the Plano Tomorrow plan into action without citizens’ approval, which allowed building that would have otherwise been stopped until the plan was approved or rejected by voters.
Why didn’t the city just hold a vote on Plano Tomorrow? I am pretty sure the city leaders calculated that a citywide vote would bring a defeat to the plan. At the time, there was a tsunami-size swelling of anti-Plano Tomorrow sentiment. In addition, in an era of voter apathy, low turnout means the city probably could not have mustered enough “For” votes to pass the plan. To give a little evidence to this theory, ex-City Councilman David Downs, an avid leader for Plano Tomorrow and rising star of the cronies, was voted out at the election following city council’s approval of the plan.
If you are a Plano citizen, do you think city leadership will act within Texas law if you bring a legal petition to the Plano secretary? Or will the city deny citizen petitions with legal maneuvering, using far-out, far-fetched, unrelated tangents, because they have special interests to protect? Just think, your petition may be the next one that is axed before being counted at the secretary’s desk!
Every decision has a consequence. What should the consequences for the leaders of Plano and Plano’s chief legal adviser be? Should the mayor step down? And should the city’s manager and chief legal adviser be fired and forced to repay all legal expenses, which include the city’s expenses, the opposition’s legal expenses, and court costs? How much should they pay for stripping citizens of their legal rights?
The bottom line is this: Texas citizens’ rights are at stake due to the actions of the city of Plano. This means the ensuing court case will impact citizens’ rights across the state, not just in Plano.
A citizens’ rights tragedy has already occurred in Plano. Let us hope the tragedy doesn’t continue.
This is an outside commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected]