Stupidest News Stories of Lubbock – Cole’s Top 5
As part of our continuing top five series, I’ve decided to highlight the five local news stories I’ve personally loved to hate in my time involved in news. The top five stupidest news stories are not necessarily in any order, and are my own opinions. Goodness knows there are plenty of dumb stories and events that grace our news desk each week, but this list includes the ones that stick out to me involving basic events and political goings-on. This list includes silly things that have happened, down to terribly irresponsible things that should have never happened at all.
Red Light Cameras were approved by the Lubbock City Council in 2007 as a blatant (and unconstitutional) money grab back in the days of former Mayor David Miller, who championed the use of the cameras. The city handed over the right to charge citizens without ever being able to face their accuser to American Traffic Solutions in Arizona, under the guise of public safety. While I’m definitely not a supporter of people running red lights, It’s simply too Orwellian for my tastes to give cameras and an outside company the right to send anyone a bill for traffic infractions. This intrusion is also coupled with the fact that accidents actually increase with the use of red light cameras according to studies done by the Virginia Department of Transportation and in Bakersfield, California. Luckily, following massive public outcry to those which the council is supposedly there to represent, the cameras were turned off in early 2008. Miller lost reelection later that year.
Alcohol used to be a dirty word in Lubbock, sending thousands out to the now-defunct strip near 98th Street and I-27. Despite the cries that, if made wet, Lubbock County would become the Sodom and Gomorrah of West Texas, everything is still perfectly fine. Even after the public handily approved the sale of alcohol for off-premise consumption, Don Workman (who, in a very carpetbagger-style move, registered to vote in Lubbock a few months after the alcohol election) and Lauran Collins decided that the public didn’t have the right to vote on the issue, and made claims that the City had held an election in the 1950s which would have blocked the issue, but no one could find the results, or even the ballot. Nothing ever came of their complaints, and now we’re able to buy beer at such exotic places as the grocery store.
In mid-2009, Lubbock County Judge Tom Head received a lot of grief for posting the contents of an email that had been circulating, which showed the mugshots of nine people, all wearing Obama shirts. In the picture, there was one white male, some black males, and what appeared to be a Hispanic female, and a paragraph making fun of a situation which included putting on an “Obama: change we can believe in shirt, grab my 9 and a few rounds, hold up a convenience store, then go buy some crack.” Poor taste in the workplace perhaps, but a posting such as that doesn’t necessarily make someone a racist, which is what some chose to believe. The contrived furor over the posting died down after Head issued an apology, and said that it was only there to promote discussion over the issue, which I still call shenanigans on. I firmly believe Head put it up because he thought it was funny (which is fine), and some searching for things to cry wolf on latched on to the topic.
As government tends to do, the City of Lubbock decided to butt in where it didn’t belong, and intervened in one family’s weekly habit of feeding the homeless. The Lugers and others would prepare food in their own home kitchen and give it to the homeless at Overton Park once a week, until the City decided to bring the charitable meal to a halt. City employees said they would give the Lugers a citation for serving the food since it was not prepared in a kitchen inspected and certified by the City of Lubbock. Of course, this sort of regulation would disallow or require a permit for many different forms of communal meals like a neighborhood barbeque, tailgates, and other forms of group picnicking. As a protest, hundreds turned out for the Potluck in the Park late last month, and some city officials are examining changing ordinances to allow for situations such as these. The City’s intervention into the matter was altogether ridiculous, and only created plenty of deservedly bad press.
In February of 2008, 37-year-old Mandi Hamlin was about to board a flight from Lubbock’s Preston Smith International Airport to go to Dallas. During her security screening, Hamlin passed through a walkthrough metal detector with no problems, but was scanned by a TSA agent with a handheld detector, and an alert was sounded as it passed over Hamlin’s chest. She told the TSA agent that she had permanent nipple piercings, and was then informed that she would have to remove the adornments. Hamlin asked if the nearby female TSA agent could check her chest, but was informed that they would not allow her onto the flight until the jewelry had been taken out. After some issues with removing the piercings, one of the agents handed Hamlin a pair of pliers. Following a complaint lodged by Hamlin and her attorney, high profile lawyer Gloria Allred, but the TSA customer service manager in Lubbock claimed that the process was handled correctly. It’s clear that the agents were improperly singling this woman out in an extremely inhumane manner when even a basic pat down would suffice, and power-mad people such as these simply help to cast Lubbock’s airport and the Transportation Security Administration in such a poor light.