Texas AG threatens to sue the City of Austin to end its mask mandate

Originally published at: Texas AG threatens to sue the City of Austin to end its mask mandate | Boing Boing


I read this in several places, but I still can’t figure out the legal basis he might have in filing a lawsuit. What possible law has been violated?


This “lawsuit” is coming from the anti-choice, pro-gun crowd. Unconstitutional laws and frivolous lawsuits are de rigeur.


Party of “small government” and “local control” folks…


People ask what’s wrong with politics today. This is it. It’s playing games for partisan purposes and nothing else.

We’ve been wearing masks for a year now, it’s not a huge inconvenience, and it helps stop the spread of COVID. Republicans want to get rid of mask mandates simply so they can show they exert control, they are wielding power for the sake of wielding power, not because there’s any measurable public good in it.


Legally, no city in Texas has the right to impose such a mandate. That’s up to the state, and why their FIRST mandate and stay-at-home orders were basically voided by Gov. Abbott last year, along with a few other cities’ mandates. (This was, of course, befote the state mandate was put in place.) The city can do whatever it wants on city property and with city employees, but has no rights to anything else. Any penalties his order imposed were declared illegal, unenforceable, and uncollectable. They have no right to issue stay-at-home orders, either.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has stated that he will continue to enforce the city’s mask mandate now that the state mandate has lifted. Which has everybody scratching their heads, becauss he did not and could not enforce it before, and nothing has changed in a year. (FWIW: Adler insisted he was enforcing the city mandate all this time, and nominally extended stay-at-home order months into the period where it was clear his order meant nothing.)

This lawsuit is basically an order for the mayor to stop claiming legal powers that neither he, nor the city as a whole have under the Texas Constitution, nor the city’s charter.


Well There It Is Jurassic Park GIF

Translation, the state government cares more about playing to their base then they do about people’s lives.


And to take this further, you need to understand that cities only have rights that their state allows them. From a Wikipedia article:

" Unlike the relationship of federalism that exists between the U.S. government and the states (in which power is shared), municipal governments have no power except what is granted to them by their states."



This is still at odds with a) human decency and b) the GOPs stated position on local control.

They are trying to kill people. There is no other explanation for not allowing local communities to set their own standards here in the midst of a public health crisis.


So long as it is their local control. Any locals who dare to exercise control not in keeping with Republican ideas are evil and must be stopped.


Been planning for a couple years now to move out of Austin to be closer to family and the Republican led state government is adding a lot of fuel to the planning fire these days.


Yep. That’s it in a nutshell. They have no real interest in upholding the rule of law. They regularly tap dance over it when it empowers them against their “enemies”. Their claims of “following the law” ring hollow in that light. They are authoritarians, plain and simple, who care not one whit for “rule of law” except as a means of oppressing others.


That dovetails pretty nicely into the second post I was about to write, which is not about the facts of the case, but general political oberservations and opinion as someone born, raised, and residing in Austin (“oh look! I’ve never seen one of those in the widl!”):

Austin has always leaned a bit differently than the rest of Texas. It has always been more liberal and more willing to show it. It has always been more willing to pass broad ordinances that would never have a shot at getting passed as state laws. And since the state has – until now – been mostly unwilling to even pass laws slapping those ordinances down, it’s mostly gotten away with it. In general, the Texas Constitution is wrtten to assure the state and its officers can’t do anything except tell the cities and their officials that they also can’t do anything. Blame reconstruction.

But in the past decade, that has changed. Austin is the state capital, and the ideals of the Austin City Council do not remotely line up with the ideals of most Texans, or even most of the city’s inhabitants. There is plenty of political hay to be made for the Governor by simply slapping down on Austin’s policies. A brief run down:

  • After Austin invested heavily in a new single-stream recycling plant (which would have paid for itself in 3 years, until China decided not to accept any more cheap plastic from teh US), they found that plastic grocery bags choked the machine constantly. So citing environmental concerns, the council banned such disposable bags, required reusable bags, and allowed grocery stores to impose a small fee to pay for the backs (and kick half back to the city). This was contrary to a clause in the very detailed, very prohibitivee state constitution. So the state slapped down Austin’s law.
  • Austin has been a sanctuary city for years, but only under Adler did they actively start trying to thwart DHS. They encouraged police not to share data on illegals, not to save such data, to spirit illegals out of jails and courthouses before INS arrived, taht sort of thing. Which resulted in a rather long state law to illegalize most of it.
  • Austin was one of the first cities in Texas to strike down the clauses which prevented homeless people from openly camping in public (“the camping ban”). When every overpass in the city became a Hoovertown, the mayor claimed he had been unaware of just home many homeless their were. (I mean, it’s not like there are copious statistics that allow him to do the job if he or his staff wanted to.) EDIT: It should be noted that Abbott tried to make good on his threat to clean up Austin’s mess whe he sent in DPS (which in any other state would be called the state police) to clear out the state underpasses, which were the only thing he had jurisdiction over. Doing so more than once is cost prohibitive, of course.
  • During the BLM marches, Adler marched with the protestors. He also lead the move to partially defund the police. The council walked it back a bit, and instead only defunded the police academy, the bomb squad*, helicopters, and new recruits. (* I thoguth defunding the bomb squad only a few years after catching the citiy’s first mad bomber was particularly myopics.)
  • And now, his stay-at-home orders and mask mandate as a rather simple case of overreaching.
  • EDIT: I did forget to mention that he is the first mayor elected under Austin’s new district system, whereby you only get to vote for one council member over your (newly-drawn, never before seen) home district, as opposed to voting for each seat race. He is also running proposition F during this next election to become a “strong mayor” (which would give him veto over the council, fire the city manager, and put him in direct control over all city services). To say that his term has be divisive is not doing the term “divisive” enough service.

Mayor Adler of Austin and Governor Abbott have basically set themselves up as poster boys for fundamentally opposing ideals. And no one outside of Austin is ever sad to see Austin slapped down for something. They love it, because Austin may as well be D.C. as far as they’re concerned. Which makes it very hard for us Austinites.

(Note that this is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. Those titles are more or less meaningless, in that a Texas democrat will feel equally foreign in an assembly of New York Republicans or Democrats. Those national party lines just do not mean what they do in other states. That’s one reason I always have to cluck my tongue and shake my head at people talking about turning the state Blue: it’s as Blue now as it ever was under, say, Gov. Richards. The state has not changed, the parties have changed around it. What to turn Texas blue? Put a Texan on the Dem. ballot. And if this all sounds unconvincing to non-Texan ears, remember that all teh other large cities like Houston and Dallas also vote Dem, but do not lean remately liberal.)

Further EDIT: since this got longer than I’m sure anyone cares about – Texans already knowing this and non-Texans not caring – let’s just sum it up as “all politics is local”. The sound and fury that makes it into the national press almost never captures what is actually going on or why. That people nationally care about COVID news hasn’t somehow made politics less local.


Fascinating read, thank you very much for posting this insight! It’s why I’ve remained with BB for over two decades: The opportunity to discover gems of insight from a wide spectrum of perspectives.


Despite the lip-service to “local control” and “small government”, the Texas Constitution states that local governments cannot override direct orders from the Governor (we have had some really outrageous characters serve as Governors ). The Constitution also prohibits the sale of any homemade pickled vegetables except cucumbers. As a legal document, it wanders around a lot.


I wouldn’t say “most” though… slightly more than half more like. I live in GA and a similar dynamic is at work here, with about half the state in more rural parts seeking to dominate and silence the other half.

I don’t think Austin is half the state though. Areas on the border tend to lean blue.


Oh, I absolutely agree with you. The GOP continues it’s transformation into a death cult. I was just giving some background on the legal situation of municipalities (because there’s some misconceptions that large cities are in some fashion legally autonomous from the state they’re in, which generally isn’t the case).


Again, “blue” is misleading. A Texas Democrat is not much different from an Illinois Republican. And even “blue” cities other than Austin don’t like Austin. In fact, as a rule, every large city in Texas hates each other.

I should also mention (as I realize it might not be clear), but Austin is also mostly transplants these days. On multiple occassions I have had this exchange:
“So, where are you from?”
“Well, yeah, but I mean originally.”
“Like born here? Wow, I’ve never met one of you people before.” (direct quote).

Outside of Austin, most Texans are not convinced there are any Texans left in Austin.


Are you really trying to say that there are no far right republicans or centrist democrats in places outside of the south? That’s ridiculous. Of course there are. Let’s not forget the current leader of the GOP is from Queens NYC. This is just more stereotyping of our region of the country I’ve been arguing against here for years now on the BBS. Let’s not replicate lazy stereotypes.