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Teapot Partying With Bailey

The Place 3 council candidate kicks off his campaign

By Michael King, Fri., Feb. 4, 2011

Saturday afternoon at Scholz Garten, Kris Bailey – representing the "Teapot Party," with nods to marijuana legalization and Willie Nelson – officially kicked off his campaign for City Council Place 3.

A small but lively group of libertarians, stoners, and diners greeted the brief program led off by campaign staffer Robert Butler, former executive director of the Liber­tar­ian Party of Texas. Bailey's campaign is not just about "one person or one cause," he said, "but about people's freedom to decide what to do with their own bodies." Butler also said Bailey demonstrated he can "stand up to pressure" during his previous campaign for state representative in District 47, where he ran as a Libertarian.

Butler introduced A. Whitney Brown, a comic and comedy writer who has worked on both Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. Brown, who now lives in Austin, said he came by his support for Bailey and opposition to marijuana laws honestly, having been busted in Texas years ago for possession of two joints, for which he served a year in prison. He doesn't recommend it, he said: "They let anybody in there." After repeating Nelson's published endorsement – "The Teapot Party was started to help people like Kris Bailey get elected" – Brown introduced the candidate.

In his brief speech, Bailey laid out the three basic tenets of his campaign: 1) Cannabis should be "legalized – period," and it should be an issue in every election, because "we're tired of our neighbors and friends getting arrested and imprisoned"; 2) City Council should move to single-member districts, for greater "accountability"; 3) the city should "reconsider" its regulations on sound permits, because they're stifling Austin's music scene and industry.

Afterward, Bailey told us he had chosen to run for Place 3, challenging Randi Shade, for a couple of reasons. "Kris Bailey running against Chris Riley?" he began. "That just wasn't gonna work." He added: "And then I understand Laura Morrison [Place 4] has been good on some privacy issues. So it seemed like Place 3 was the best place to run in."

Asked what he thought City Council can do about state marijuana laws, Bailey said, "We need to bring the city to a policy of nonenforcement." He noted that while the city's official policy is now in accord with state law allowing officers to "cite-and-release" for simple possession, it's his understanding that "Chief [Art] Acevedo has not been doing that." He said he has 2009 figures reflecting that 4,500 people were arrested and booked for marijuana possession. "Cite-and-release is better than nothing," he concluded, "but we need to move to nonenforcement."

Concerning other city policies, Bailey said that Austin should open up Austin Energy and Austin Water to private competition. "As it is now, customers can't take our business elsewhere," he said, and "government monopoly" is "not the American way." He also described problems of apparently arbitrary or unfair code enforcement in some neighborhoods (e.g., Fairview) as needing to be reviewed.

The oddest detail of the day was a flier distributed at Scholz's asking for campaign donations, designating $2,500 as "Platinum" and soliciting continuing stipends as much as $250 a month. Asked if he understood that city campaign finance ordinances ban contributions above $350 total per person, Bailey and Butler both said they understood that limit to be voluntary. "I reviewed the campaign finance ordinance," said Butler, "and I thought it said that if you don't accept city matching funds, you don't have to abide by the limits." Informed by the Chronicle that in fact contributions more than $350 per person are banned, Bailey said, "Thanks for telling us that – we'll fix that immediately." Another staffer added that only $25 had been raised that day.

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