Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
How Low Will They Go?
by the GOGP Staff
12 October 2012
There is nothing that the GOGP loathes more than the thought of writing any more articles about this Council and how they failed to do what they said they were going to do regarding the Public Housing issue. Just having to think about what they did and didn't do is enough to ruin your whole day, let alone take the time to write about it. It is a process that is truly unpleasant and distasteful, but after what some Councilmembers did, yesterday, we had little choice. Apparently, some of them don’t know the old adage that when you have dug yourself into a hole; it's time to stop digging!
After failing to even make a token attempt to “fight the Conciliation Agreement”, as promised during the campaign, and passing a Public Housing plan that would even embarrass Neville Chamberlain; three Councilmembers decided to chastise Councilmember Beeton, at yesterday’s workshop, for being one of the two Members who refused to provide a unanimous vote for their collective surrender, AND for having the nerve to present her reasons, for not going along with the majority, to the voters.
It’s obvious how much easier it would have been for the others if everyone had echoed the party line that they simply had no choice but to cede the sovereignty of the City to two “fair-housing” groups in Austin, and violate the Fair Housing Act, in exchange for the money that the City has neglected to put into the infrastructure for the last 50 years. Very few people are "buying" that “explanation”, but it would have been easier to “sell it” with unanimity of capitulation. In exchange for this “deal”, the Council has now agreed to build ADDITIONAL Public Housing that will remain in the City for at least the next 75 years!
Apparently, those who surrendered were not politically savvy enough to change the subject. It’s not like anyone is ever going to forget or forgive what they did, but to gang up on one of the two Councilmembers who the voters regard as heroes for keeping their campaign promises, is incredibly inept.
The following video of the workshop focuses on the demand that Councilmembers should disclose their positions on issues before they are presented to the public in City Council meetings. The discussion deals with so-called “presentations”, but what is considered a “presentation” and, therefore, what would have to be disclosed is difficult to define. Is one simple page with tables and data on it a “presentation”? But, more fundamentally, why should any Councilmember have to disclose what they want to say or present as long as it is regarding a posted agenda item? It was suggested that they should even be required to have a "second" before being allowed to present certain information.
Is this a not-too-subtle method to attempt to censor our elected officials? Is the reason for this new-found interest in some form of "disclosure of discussion points and materials" a way to stifle and chill the descent of one or two Councilmembers who may find themselves in the minority, but still have the obligation to present their views to the public? Unfortunately, the current majority does not appear to want to give minority views the opportunity to persuade the public that their position would better serve the voters.
To her credit, Councilmember Tarleton recognized this "discussion" for what it was, simply an effort to chastise Councilmember Beeton for failing to go along with the majority and provide a unanimous vote on what must be the most blatant act of duplicity in the City’s history, and not a valid need for new procedures; so she rightly cautioned against what they were trying to do!
In retrospect, there is little doubt that the endless hours of executive sessions and lack of participation in the so-called "negotiations" had the effect of making this Council like a sequestered jury where the party line was “we have to have a unanimous vote to get this thing over with”. The excessive and questionable use of these executive sessions did not allow the proper scrutiny by the public, which could have made a big difference. This process allowed the time, behind closed doors, for Councilmembers to try to come to a “consensus” to collectively violate their campaign promises, in order to reduce the condemnation directed towards each of them individually; a consensus that Beeton and Pappous refused to join!
And in the end, after full and total capitulation, the GLO thanked the Council for their “cooperation”, and then cut off the City’s disaster recovery funding until they break ground at Cedar Terrace, anyway! Not exactly a great deal for the voters, but the fact that they were bamboozled, once again, is truly poetic justice.
Watch the video and see transparent and open government slipping away right before your eyes in this city. Then tell the Council what you think: (click on the picture below)
This highly-touted pro-business Council is a crushing disappointment!