Page 17


what the cartels sell, Sterling says. “This would significantly weaken the cartels,” he says. Despite objections from the United States, Mexico has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs. The recent law emphasizes free government treatment for addiction instead of incarceration. Several other Latin American countries, including Colombia, followed suit with similar reforms this summer. In El Paso, the debate over U.S. drug policy is anything but over. The quashing of O’Rourke’s amendment made him more determined to hold a serious discussion in his hometown. From Sept. 20 to Sept. 22, he’ll get his wish as the University of Texas at El Paso holds a policy forum on the War on Drugs. Speakers from across the globe, including the former mayor of Medellin, Colombia, and the former national security adviser for Mexican President Felipe Calderon, will attend. Tony Payan, a UTEP professor and one of the conference’s organizers, says the circle is tightening around the United States and its emphasis on incarceration. “The younger generation is more amenable to the idea of treating drug abuse as a medical problem,” Payan says. “There is a very fragile cultural shift occurring. We are hoping to nurture it so that it takes on a momentum of its own.” Melissa del Bosque Last Gasp A LAWSUIT ATTEMPTS TO DERAIL A RADIOACTIVE WASTE DUMP IN ANDREWS COUNTY In May Andrews County voters approvedby three votes $75 million in bonds to help Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons build a massive radioactive waste dump near the town of Andrews. Simmons’ company Waste Control Specialists LLC paid the election expenses. Now a lawsuit filed in state district court by two Andrews sisters against the county judge charges the outcome was bogus. Melodye and Peggy Pryor are lifelong Andrews residents and among the few outspoken dump opponents in the small West Texas town with an outsized enthusiasm for “free enterup to the May bond election, the Pryors formed “No Bonds for Billionaires,” a local group that blasted Simmons for demanding a government handout rather than put his own money at risk. The appeal to fiscal conservatism gained traction in the conservative town, where opponents’ environmental and public-health arguments had not. Previously silent locals began questioning the wisdom of the deal. Things grew so tense that the Texas secretary of state, Hope Andrade, sent an election monitor. After the close election, the Pryors demanded a recount. It yielded the same result: 642-639. Still, the sisters maintained something was fishy. “They’re not disclosing everything to us,” Peggy Pryor told the Midland Reporter-Telegram in June. “We as citizens of Andrews should know what’s going on.” The Pryors’ suit alleges that 90 votes were cast illegally and calls for the election to be invalidated. The suit contends there was a raft of irregularities, including at least three unregistered voters; voters using someone else’s voter ID number; people born in other countries who didn’t affirm their U.S. citizenship on voter-registration applications; and mismatches between signatures on polling place sign-in sheets and voter-registration cards. Attorneys for Waste Control Specialiststhird-party interveners in the suittrashed it in a response filed with the court. “Based on nothing but speculation and questions,” the response reads, “contestants would have the Court reject ninety votes and deprive these individuals of their fundamental right to vote.” The county’s response appears to undermine the allegations, documenting that many of the voters in question are longtime Andrews residents and voters. Many of the allegations of illegal voting stem from minor mistakes on voter applications, the county says. The four “illegal” voters were in fact registered, according to the secretary of state’s database. The county can’t authorize the bonds until the lawsuit runs its course. A hearing was set for Sept. 15 in Andrews. When the decision comes down, efforts to derail the radioactive waste facility might have run their course. Forrest Wilder YOU DON’T SAY: “Being the Pastrami King and lieutenant governor is similar.” Austin deli owner and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Marc Katz, explaining his qualifications to the Austin American-Statesman. SEPTEMBER 18, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 7