AKA “watching newly elected council members break their campaign promises”. Once again, I know that most of you don’t care about the politics of my little city. And I promise that if I decide to keep doing this, I’ll create a separate website or something. But for now, just skip this or read it to get a glimpse of small town politics.
Resident Gerry Victor objected to the minutes from the May 28th meeting because he didn’t think they reflected his comments accurately. I listened to the recording this morning and then read the minutes he is referring to and they seemed accurate enough to me. Heck, I was happy just to see the minutes – of the last seven meetings, that is the only one with minutes available. After his objection to those minutes, he talked about the reserve fund and urged the council not to use it but to save it for a rainy day. He’s a good watchdog over this account and that is very valuable. As he finished his remarks, he gave instructions to the city secretary about how his remarks should be characterized in the minutes. Kinda funny.
Resident Mike Wheeler wants to add culverts to Circle Park. He said that after the recent road improvements, the ditches are too deep to drive a vehicle through, noting that the only parking now is in front of the restrooms and tennis court. I suspect he’ll get his way, see below.
Resident Darlene Bay wants to add a dollar or two fee to our monthly water bills for park improvements. A resident on South Country Club stood up and said forget that, the ditches haven’t been mowed, let’s focus on priorities. Obviously I objected to any additional fees during my remarks to council. What is it with people thinking that “oh, it’s only a dollar or two a month, skip a soda and you’ll never miss the money”? It’s my money and I’ll darn sure miss it! If you want to form a group to donate time and money to improve the park, have at it and I’ll donate more than a dollar. Or two.
And then it was my turn. The wife and I went on vacation to Arkansas a couple of weeks ago. Although we do have an alarm system, the city provides a “vacation watch” service – call the police chief, tell him the dates you will be out, and the police will make an extra effort to watch your house. Heck, they even pull up in the driveway and walk around the perimeter just to make sure. Try that in your big city! So my comments were to thank them for the effort – it really does add to your peace of mind.
After citizen comments, we heard from the city administrator, police chief, and public works director. That last one is new and is there as a result of council demanding to hear from the employee rather than have an overview from the city administrator about the activities in public works. Talk about a yawner. I’m guessing that council will eventually decide that details about ditch mowing, water line repair, and overall maintenance aren’t really worth an extra 15-20 minutes of each meeting. The overview from the city administrator suffices nicely.
And then the fun started. While I was on vacation, I missed the last meeting of council (hey, it is only the second one I’ve missed this year!). At that meeting, council decided to appoint Alderman Matt Webber as Mayor. Not sure why as I wasn’t there. Anyway, it opened up a slot for an appointment to his old slot. I noticed the itinerary item but didn’t think much about it before hand. Apparently I was the only one that didn’t think about it.
New Mayor Webber hasn’t gotten the hang of controlling meetings, so it was a bit chaotic. The one thing that ticked me off was that he clearly stated that after council nominations, nominees would get to speak to council/citizens, take questions from them, and after each nominee was finished, he would then take comments from the citizens. Except he didn’t because new council member Nancy Schnell, who ran on a platform of listening to the citizens, decided she’d heard enough and “called the question”, cutting off any further comments from citizens. So I and others that had waited to speak were shut out. So much for campaign promises. I suppose that “listening to the voters” means “listening if I’m not in a hurry to leave” or “listening if I agree with you” or “listening if I haven’t made up my mind”. Whatever. I sent her a text message asking why she changed but haven’t received a reply.
The first nomination came from Alderman Rick Moses, who nominated Paul Croas, a relative newcomer to the community. The second came from Alderman Steve Jones, who told us that he had heard from many citizens and they wanted experience and someone that had run in the recent election. So his nominee was Richard Adams, a long time citizen and previous alderman. The third nominee came from Alderman Bo Bunker, who said that he too had heard from citizens and that he was nominating Mike Wheeler (see above).
Although new to the community, Croas lived next door in La Porte, so he knows the community, he is obviously well qualified, and he would add a professional voice to the council. He reviewed his work history, both from his time in the Army and with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. Several people spoke on his behalf, talking about him being a good neighbor since moving in, etc. And his wife also spoke for him, always a good sign. 😉 Maybe I’ll help him when he runs for Mayor next year.
Adams gave a brief bio, highlighting his community work. Then a whole bunch of folks stood up and vouched for him – easily the majority of the room. They pointed to his experience on council and the lack of experience of the new council, saying that it would benefit the city greatly to have a voice with experience on the council.
Then the weird started. Gerry Victor (see above) complained that it looked like a setup to him and that it was “obvious” that “people” had come prepared for this and that Adams had coordinated with people to get them to testify. If Adams had done this, I wasn’t aware of it and if Schell hadn’t cut off citizen comments, I would have added my voice to his supporters. The irony was that the guy he was supporting, Croas, was the only one prepared with a written speech about why he should be appointed. This went on for a bit until Webber finally got control back.
Finally, Wheeler was allowed to speak. He talked about his involvement with his neighbors and stressed the small town community feel that he wanted.
One resident asked the same question for all three men: how do you feel about big government intruding in our lives? Fortunately, each man wants to limit government interference, so that was a relief.
After Wheeler’s turn at the plate, Schnell made her move and cut off citizen comments. Council went round and round for a while, Moses sticking with Croas, Jones sticking with Adams, and Schnell joining Bunker in voting for Wheeler. After several rounds of this, Moses finally said “Aye” to Wheeler and thus your new alderman is Mike Wheeler.
I’ll take you back to the June 10th meeting in which Moses made this comment:
Moses gave another emotional speech claiming that 98% of the room was in favor of naming the building after French, then said that he was there to listen to the people and the people that show up at council meetings are the citizens that need to be listened to.
Like Schnell, I guess Moses means he’ll listen to the people that agree with him. The majority of citizens in the room, those that took the time to attend, were clearly in favor of adding Adams back to the council. My respect for Adams moved up a notch – there was no possible way that this council was going to name him but he stuck his neck out and stood up anyway. Kudos.
As I said earlier, so much for campaign promises. I see it time and time again – people run for office claiming to be “for the people” but when the rubber meets the road, they go their own way.
After that fiasco, I left. The next agenda item was naming a new Mayor Pro-Tem and that was a foregone conclusion – council gave that spot to Moses.
So there you have it. Like I said, I’m not sure if I’ll continue to write about our little city or not but if I do, I’ll probably set up a separate site so that people from across Texas don’t have to skip over these reports. As long as these guys don’t raise my taxes, or add a fee to the water bill, it’ll be fine. Politics is politics, be it small town or big state – don’t put your faith in a politician.