AJ Editorial is Bad Opinion Based on Fabrication

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?

Police Chief Greg StevensLubbock 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?


Editorial hypocrisy produces Flores endorsement

Lubbock’s daily newspaper, we like to call it the Daily Nickel, has come out with its endorsements. They are notable but only for their hypocrisy.

Sedeno
Commissioner Sedeno

The Daily Nickel’s endorsement of former Commissioner Gilbert Flores for county commissioner over incumbent Bubba Sedeno in the Democratic Primary was, in its best light, a blatant act of doublespeak. It also renews questions about how relevant a daily newspaper can be when it is owned by a Georgia media conglomerate and has little or no corporate memory.

The argument for editorial hypocrisy is found in the editorial’s reference to Sedeno’s vote for a raise for commissioners. That vote was 4-1 for the raise and Commissioner Bill McCay, who received the Daily Nickel’s endorsement for Pct. 1 Republican Primary, also voted for the raise.

Flores made the motion for a twenty percent raise.

A further demonstration of the duplicity at work is found in a July 24, 2001 article in the Daily Nickel. There we learn that during his previous tenure on the commissioners court Flores himself made the motion for a larger, twenty percent pay raise. The commissioners approved that raise by a 4-1 vote also. McCay was not on the commissioners court at that time.

One of the underlying reasons for the Daily Nickel’s duplicity is found in its ignorance. Ignorance is a sad accusation to make of a media outlet however the Daily Nickel boasts a lack of any institutional memory of itself or the community it presumes to serve. imageTwo thirds of its editorial board are new transfers to Lubbock. Collectively, editorial board opinions are a vivid demonstration of the absence of any historical context.

This is the same publication that in its December 27, 2015 edition announced on the front page that it would soon feature a new column edited by a former Lubbockite who at the time also appeared on the state’s registered sex offender list. The article no longer appears on the paper’s website yet no retraction can be found.

One assumes that Daily Nickel management, when confronted with public outcry over the outrageous move, backed down and attempted to cover up all trace of the lapse. Had management merely looked up its new columnist in its own archives it would have learned the truth. Ignorance on the front page.

Sedeno refuses to be a token.

But ignorance is not the only reason behind the specious endorsement. Unlike his opponent, Bubba Sedeno refuses to be a token. He didn’t take office to get along with the rest of the commissioners. He has consistently challenged the status quo and boldly represented his district without apology.

The commissioners court has long been run by a Queen Commissioner and her Duke. Those two believe their districts, although equal in population to Sedeno’s, merit better and more attention from taxpayer dollars. For years, while Flores was commissioner and without his objection, those two commissioners ran the county with an iron fist behind a cloak of secrecy that produced questionable expenditures and backdoor raises to favored employees.

Commissioner Sedeno has fought for transparency. Unlike Flores, he’s not satisfied to merely collect a paycheck. But the power establishment at the county and the Daily Nickel abhor a minority who isn’t there to just get along.

The power establishment at the county and the Daily Nickel abhor a minority who isn’t there to just get along.

If Sedeno “erred” past offending the Queen and her Duke, both of whom have the ear of the editorial board, it was in cooperating with any media outlet except the Daily Nickel. The editorial board is punishing Sedeno for not realizing that the Daily Nickel and it’s ever shrinking circulation is the only game in town. Except it isn’t the only game in town and Sedeno made no mistake when he refused to bend his knee to the Queen and her Duke.

Whether on the front page or the editorial page, the Daily Nickel has become the marionette for establishment interests and the politicians who cater to it. That calls in question the legitimacy of every endorsement it makes.