I just witnessed the most brazen act of arrogant, unaccountable “leadership” that I have ever seen in local government. It was politics at its sleaziest. It made me sick, and every citizen of Flower Mound should be outraged.
On Monday night, Mayor Jody Smith and two of her cronies on the Town Council essentially thumbed their noses at the 3,000 concerned citizens who signed a petition seeking a temporary moratorium on the acceptance and processing of a special use permit for centralized collection facilities, pipelines, gas gathering and compression stations.
After a request was made by Councilmember Al Filidoro to hold a special meeting next Monday to consider placing the moratorium on the May 8 ballot for citizens to vote up or down, the Mayor suddenly grew very agitated and, among other things, said she would not attend such a meeting were the Council to approve it.
If that wasn’t offensive enough, Mayor Smith also had the audacity to utter these words: “I haven’t seen a petition. I don’t know what it’s about.”
That’s right, folks. Your Mayor, who has presided over this town for the last six years, is oblivious to the high-profile petition drive going on all around her. Apparently she missed the yellow signs lining the streets. She has overlooked the many newspaper columns and op-eds written on the subject, including one by Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dixon, who sits to her right, and the many television and radio reports documenting our exercise in democracy.
I could have sworn she was presiding over the last council meeting when the petition drive was officially announced right in front of her.
Does she take us for fools?
She asks us to believe that she isn’t behind the mysterious calls to the LISD that forced them to reverse course and deny the use of school parking lots as petition-signing stations, after the organizers had already received written permission. Or that she and her allies weren’t involved in pressuring local businesses not to cooperate with the petition groups.
Madam Mayor, you should be ashamed! You revealed your true colors tonight, and, pardon me for being so bold, they aren’t flattering on you.
Mayor Pro Tem Jean Levenick, I don’t think you had uttered a dozen words all night until the issue was raised more than four hours into Monday night’s session. But you sure became energized when it came time to fend off the threat of the petitioners!
You, too, left no doubt where your loyalties lie: with the drillers with which you and Mayor Smith have signed mineral rights leases.
Ladies, if anyone should avoid the appearance of bias and impropriety, it is you. You are the two with leases. You are the two who brought embarrassment to yourselves and the town with your recent sexual harassment scandal (for pinching a police officer in the rear end). There’s no telling how much your juvenile acts cost our town in terms of taxpayer dollars and distraction from more important duties.
Yet you have the gall to claim “fiscal responsibility” as a rationale for not directing the Town Secretary to expedite the validation of petition signatures? You had heard the Town Manager report earlier that it took 10 days to process a petition with 35 percent of the town’s signatures in 2007. How much of a burden would it be to process one-seventh of that amount in half the time? And wouldn’t that effort be worth it, to avoid the added expense of a special election, which is what the petitioners were trying to avoid in the first place?
Levenick even scoffed at the 3,000 signatures, as if they represent a tiny sliver of the town’s eligible voters. Yet she knows all too well that she received a mere 1,449 votes in her 2008 election, in which she prevailed by a scant 47 votes. Mayor Smith, who ran unopposed, received just 2,314 votes two years ago.
Their actions Monday night were an abomination, and they know it. I think even Mr. Dixon recognized the folly of their arguments, which is why he remained silent during the deliberations. He knew he couldn’t claim ignorance to the petition’s intent, since he had written about it publicly. He wisely kept mum, though I certainly would have preferred for him to do the right thing and support the petitioners’ request.
Mayor Smith, I can only speak for myself, but I believe you have proven yourself to be unfit to serve this town any longer. Here are just a few more reasons why I hope others will join me in urging you to retract your decision to seek an unprecedented fourth term in the upcoming elections.
1. Your decision not to recuse yourself from the January 21, 2010, vote on the CCF ordinance was ethically and morally irresponsible. You navigated a legal loophole to vote on an issue that you knew would specifically benefit Williams Production, the company to which you have leased your mineral rights and from which you receive remuneration.
2. Your grandstanding at the February 1, 2010, Town Council hearing, in which you lambasted Council Member Tom Hayden for bringing a container of wastewater to the January 21st session, was a farce. The fact that you chose to blind-side Mr. Hayden publicly, and then refused to allow him to respond in kind to your accusations, was both unprofessional and patently offensive.
3. Your allegiance to Williams and the other gas drillers that are slowly but steadily transforming our town from a peaceful, family-friendly suburb into an industrial zone has violated the trust placed in you by your constituents. You’ve made it clear whose side you’re on – most recently, and obviously, during Monday night’s meeting – and it’s not with the vast majority of the town.
4. I believe you should be held accountable to your campaign promises. Specifically, in February 2008, you said “I’d like to encourage other folks to … plan to run for mayor because I’d like to call my third term, my last term.” After acknowledging the lack of term limits on your office, you followed with this unequivocal statement: “I’m going to impose term limits on myself.” Those are words upon which you and I can agree.
Finally, in a recent interview you said “Every town and city has problems, but it’s how you react to those problems that separate the good leaders from the bad.”
Madam Mayor, I couldn’t agree more. Sadly, your recent actions have separated you from the ranks of the good leaders.
I implore you to leave now of your own accord, before you sully your reputation further. And before you do more harm to the town I presume you still love.
March 2, 2010
P.S. To find out how you can sign the petition and send a message that we will not be ignored, please visit www.flowermoundcares.com.
Ladd Biro is a small business owner and syndicated sports columnist who has lived in Flower Mound since 2002.