Wednesday the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal carried an editorial founded in false reporting, reinforced by fraudulent quotes and bolstered by bad opinion.
In an op-ed piece that was more appropriate to the advertising section, the paper promoted Vigilant Solutions, a company that has devised a license plate recognition system. Their device will read and track license plates as a police officer drives down the street. If a plate owner owes outstanding fines to the city the officer is alerted and can stop the offender and offer to run his credit card on the spot to pay the fines. If the driver has no credit card the officer can choose to haul the citizen to jail for not paying a parking ticket.
Vigilant calls it their "warrant redemption system."
The city of Kyle never implemented the program. The quote from the police chief was a complete fabrication.
The result is to turn law enforcement into the city’s debt collection agency. Vigilant Solutions provides the equipment and charges 25% of the amount collected plus processing fees.
The AJ, acting as a shill for Vigilant Solutions, advocates the idea saying “it has an appeal.”
The advertisement-parading-as-an-editorial cited the city of Kyle as an example saying it “is now using the warrant redemption program.”
The AJ editorial even quoted Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett saying “the program frees up more time for his officers to handle other police matters.”
The Sandstorm Scholar did a little fact checking and discovered none of the above is true.
First, according to Kyle Assistant City Manager James Earp, the city of Kyle never implemented the program. The city council initially approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore the idea. The council later voted unanimously to kill it more than two weeks prior to the AJ editorial. The AJ report was false.
This wasn't a mistake; it was a made-up story to fit a preconceived conclusion.
Further, the quote from the police chief, which can reasonably be inferred to be a quote given the AJ, was a complete fabrication. Police Chief Jeff Barnett told the Sandstorm Scholar he had not talked with anyone from the Avalanche-Journal.
Chief Barnett added that he had seen reports in the media that implied his department had implemented the program but that he had never said that to any media outlet.
“One misconception that I heard that was out there in some media was that we had already accepted the software and had already begun implementation. That is not true at all,” said Chief Barnett.
The Kyle story was not a distortion, it was a lie. This wasn't a mistake; it was a made-up story to fit a preconceived conclusion.
We contacted the AJ’s editorial board. Publisher Brandon Hughes was out of town so we talked with another member of the board. He claimed the editorial was based on information contained in a Texas Tribune article which the AJ had run last month.
LPD Chief Greg Stevens: "That's a terrible idea."
So the AJ’s facts and opinions derive from a left-leaning, factually questionable, online publication.
If it can get worse, it is the opinion that came from the errant editorial. Like almost any other big-government scheme that comes along the AJ editorial board liked the idea of turning the police into a collection agency. “…as long as they are doing it in addition to enforcing criminal and traffic laws and keeping the peace, it sounds reasonable," wrote the AJ.
We’re left wondering exactly how much spare time the AJ thinks Lubbock police have?
Lubbock Police Chief Greg Stevens told the Sandstorm Scholar, “I don’t want the police out there collecting any proceeds on the street. That’s a terrible idea. That’s not the business we’re in. We simply serve arrest warrants.”
We agree with the Chief.
The Sandstorm Scholar questions how this editorial advertisement came about? Did it simply come from Vigilant Solutions' lobbyist via the Texas Tribune and blindly picked up by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal? Or has Vigilant Solutions targeted Lubbock and is doing pre-sales work via the editorial page of the AJ? And doesn’t this sound eerily similar to the AJ's support of red light cameras in days past?
Vigilant Solutions is a California company that, according to the website OpenSecrets.org, spent $421,000 on lobbyists at the federal level in 2015. You can be certain they spent that much or more at state and local levels. Most Texas cities, including Lubbock, do not have lobby reporting requirements.
Doesn’t this sound eerily similar to the AJ's support of red light cameras in days past?
Why is this a big deal?
Because there was a time when editorials in the local paper were thoughtfully and carefully prepared. They carried weight. The topics were substantive and they didn't shill for commercial interests. Not coincidentally, that was also a time when its circulation was twice or more what it is now.
Don't mistake what you read in today's AJ editorial pages for something that matters. The editorials and endorsements are sloppy, sometimes based in fiction and make no attempt to reflect Lubbock’s conservative values of limited government and self-reliance.
All in a day’s work at the Lubbock AJ. Is it any wonder we prefer to call it the Daily Nickel?