But the rest of the commissioners said they wanted to support the group’s constitutional rights to free speech and agreed to allow the Patriots to hold their get-together on Jan. 23.
The group plans to meet between 9:30 a.m. and noon that Wednesday.
(See the prior related story and video here)
Precinct 3 Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez objected to the group’s request to use an electrical outlet to power their sound system and microphones.
“I have concerns with that, not so much with the Tea Party using the courthouse square, but the people who voted me in would not like for this to happen,” he said. “This Tea Party is a divisive group that I believe has separated our voters, our town’s people. They have one agenda and I don’t think this county should spend one penny of its resources to support this divisive group.”
He said he wouldn’t mind other groups using the courthouse’s electricity for meetings.
“I would approve of veterans groups, Boy Scouts, even the Republican Party,” said Rodriguez, a Democrat. “But the Tea Party, the people who support me believe very strongly it is a divisive group in our community. Therefore, I will not support their use of our county resources.”
County Judge David Silva attempted to clarify Rodriguez’s concerns. “Are you saying they can use the grounds but not the electricity?”
“Well, I don’t think we have any control over the grounds, other than to have someone ask permission,” Rodriguez replied. “But the use of the electricity is a different matter.”
Rodriguez said he was concerned that allowing what he considers one divisive group to use the electricity would cause more problems in the future.
“We’ll only be opening ourselves up to the Ku Klux Klan or anybody else who wants to use our electricity,” he explained.
“Again, I don’t oppose anyone else that’s not divisive. That could be a political party, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, veterans groups — someone who has the community’s best interests in mind.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Susan Stasny, a Republican, said she has not received any negative calls regarding the local group of Tea Party Patriots.
She said the group may be comprised of individuals who share conservative values and Republican ideals but they have their own officers and are not affiliated officially with the Bee County Republican Partly.
She said she believes the group should be allowed to meet, and use the county’s electricity just like any other group.
“I’m concerned about First Amendment rights, and not denying any citizen in Bee County access to the public’s property,” she said. “If you want to exclude the use of electricity, and you’re doing that for all political groups, then maybe that’s appropriate...”
“No, I’m not doing that to all political groups,” Rodriguez interjected. “I’m doing it for this group because this group is very divisive.”
“Well, I don’t think we can do that,” Judge Silva said.
“Why not?” Rodriguez asked.
“I don’t think we can pick and choose the people who (can use the county’s electricity),” Silva responded.
He said he believes the county should be fair to all groups and a “variety of viewpoints.”
“Now there may be some groups we may not want (to use the county’s resources) but at the same time if they don’t do anything illegal, we have to recognize their point of view. I may not agree with them personally — you mentioned the Ku Klux Klan — but I don’t think we can ban them. They could cause (the county) a lot of trouble (legally).”
Rodriguez said he wasn’t asking the county to ban the group from meeting on the courthouse grounds, just denying them access to county resources.
Stasny said she was concerned about denying county resources to one particular group and not others.
“This is a divisive group and it has one concern and that’s to speak out against our president,” Rodriguez said. “Personally, I’m not going to vote for it, but I only have one vote.”
Rodriguez made a motion to allow the Tea Party Patriots to meet on the courthouse grounds but deny the group use of the courthouse’s electricity on the day it gathers.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Carlos Salazar Jr. agreed with Rodriguez that the Tea Party Patriots are divisive but he also believed the group should be treated the same as any other group.
“I want to publicly say to Mr. Rodriguez, I concur with you 100 percent,” said Salazar, adding, “(But) I’m just looking at the overall picture. As much as I hate some of their beliefs — not all, some of them are legitimate, but the majority I disagree with. I agree with some of (Rodriguez’s) statements.”
Despite agreeing with some of Rodriguez’s comments, however, neither Salazar nor any other commissioner seconded Rodriguez’s motion.
Stasny then made the motion to allow the group to meet on the courthouse grounds and use the electrical outlet if needed.
Salazar, Silva and Precinct 4 Commissioner Ronnie Olivarez voted in favor of Stasny’s motion. Rodriguez voted against it.