The Oligarchy of Palestine Texas

by Johnnie Belle Reagan

Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos), meaning ‘few’, and ἄρχω (arkho), meaning ‘to rule or to command’ is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, family ties, education or corporate, religious or political, military control. Such states are often controlled by families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.

Throughout history, oligarchies have often been tyrannical, relying on public obedience or oppression to exist. Aristotle pioneered the use of the term as meaning rule by the rich, for which another term commonly used today is plutocracy.

In the early 20th century Robert Michels developed the theory that democracies, as all large organizations, have a tendency to turn into oligarchies. In his “Iron law of oligarchy” he suggests that the necessary division of labor in large organizations leads to the establishment of a ruling class mostly concerned with protecting their own power.

If you ever had any doubt what the true intent of the City of Palestine bringing the Civil Action against property owner Jerry Laza, that certainly has been cleared up with the recent outcome of the non-hearing on December 20th, 2018.

It had been reported to me that Laza had an “understanding” in place since the September 7th Contempt hearing in agreement with all parties, Judge Phifer, Laza’s Bankruptcy Lawyer William Lively and Bankruptcy Court, to show and report progress on the terms of the injunction while the Appeal is pending. From a source, Laza had been clearing the property starting at 1019 W. Oak and then moving on to the residential property at 307 Fort.  Every two weeks Laza was required to forward pictures of progress to Judge Phifer.  I had to the opportunity to verify for myself that indeed lawn equipment has been removed from cluttering those properties.

In any other world you would have to imagine that this would be held a victory on the side of the City of Palestine.  Especially since they represent the injustice of the scourge that the clutter has brought to the property values and that invisible rat that cause so much damage to a plastic bucket at one house and the wall in another.  In the best interest of the few neighboring property owners cleaning the 307 Fort properties would be of the up most importance. But then again, we are in Palestine…

So, if Laza and the City of Palestine were sincerely trying to appease the neighbor’s complaints that initially spurred the City into action you have to ask yourself why change the direction of the clean-up efforts to the front of the 1101 W. Oak business property where Laza clearly has a permit to run his business with outside storage?  This property does not touch any residential lots that Laza does not own.  What about the neighbor’s property on Fort Street?

I’m not going to promote the local paper of the City of Palestine.  The paper has a long history of censorship and writing local government “friendly” articles.  Lawnmower Man, Jerry Laza, has a couple of sights that support him and his struggle.  One is a social media page on Facebook and the other is a petition on  I regularly read both to keep up with what is current on the case.

The most recent article in the local paper described the behavior of the City of Palestine’s Attorney Ron Stutes after a 2-hour private meeting in Judge Phifer’s chambers and before Judge Phifer took the stand at the December 20th, 2018 Contempt of Court non-hearing.  Jerry Laza sat patiently waiting to hear if he would indeed be found guilty of contempt and possibly sentenced to 21 days in jail and another $80,000.00 in fines on the Judgement that is currently waiting rulings in the Texas 6th Court of Appeals.  It was reported to me by sources that Ron Stutes entered the courtroom visibly showing anger, we assume about what went on in that meeting with the Judge and Laza’s Bankruptcy Attorney William Lively.

Before Judge Phifer entered the room and took the stand the paper reports that Ron Stutes openly solicited Jerry Laza’s attention and said, “Jerry, Merry Christmas.”

Shortly after this interaction was witnessed by a few trial attendees including the local reporter from the newspaper, Judge Phifer took the stand and announced that there would not be a hearing.  According to the newspaper article the Judge urged Laza to show more progress and move his focus away from the residential lots and to the front of his commercial property on West Oak.  Which sets directly across from the Union Pacific Rail Road yard that is an eyesore smorgasbord itself.

It just might be me as a tax paying citizen that gets sick thinking of the amount of money that Attorney Ron Stutes has hauled away from Palestine, TX to Tyler, TX.  Or the overwhelming fact that it appears his representation is of someone or something other than the constituents that make paying his salary possible.  The redirection definitely ignores the fact that two of Laza’s neighbors testified in Court in the behalf of the City. I’m sure that the people most affected and testified in original trail in October 2017 would have like to have had a voice in that Courtroom on December 20th, it is painfully clear that they live in a Oligarchy that is Palestine, Texas.


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