One Man’s Opinion: Vote “H-F-L”

Early voting for Mayor and two contested seats on the Flower Mound Town Council begins April 30th.  But the posturing, pandering and pontificating began months ago.

As is too often the case in our little corner of the Metroplex, election season is bringing out the worst in some people.  Venom usually reserved for child molesters, IRS agents and gas industry publicists (pardon the juxtaposition) is being spewed against one candidate or another with little regard for the truth.  Victory at all costs seems to be the mantra.

Presumably because I was fairly vocal during the hotly contested 2010 municipal elections, I’ve been asked repeatedly whom I’m supporting.  So far, I have resisted the urge to wade into the campaign swamp any more publicly than the occasional Facebook post or by displaying signs in my front yard. 

But I decided to weigh in now because I’m worried Flower Mound is about to make at least a couple of bad decisions. 

The first bad decision would be to re-elect the entire NFL ticket – Northern, Filidoro and Lyda.  The second bad decision would be to replace them all.

Instead, I’m urging you to vote for a troika that none of the candidates would endorse: Tom Hayden, Al Filidoro and Steve Lyda.  Here’s why…

The Mayor’s Race

Melissa Northern was the right choice at the right time for the 2010 Mayor’s race.  She headed the NFL slate that was swept into office amid widespread disapproval of the incumbent regime and on the heels of the successful gas drilling petition.  Mayor Northern then led the Town Council to act on the will of the voters by enacting a moratorium on new gas well applications.  Once the moratorium was in place, an advisory board was created and tasked with tightening up the town’s Oil & Gas Ordinance, which had been systematically weakened over the years by pro-drilling members of the Town Council.

Today, Flower Mound’s ordinance is widely regarded as one of the strongest in the nation – a model to be emulated by other municipalities threatened by the encroachment of the oil and gas industry.  Melissa deserves a great deal of credit for that.

But not as much as Tom Hayden, her opponent for the Mayor’s job.  Tom was one of two Town Council members (Filidoro being the other) who fought hard to protect Flower Mound and its citizens from the deep-pocketed drillers and their apologists, well before Melissa was elected.  Tom and Al bucked Mayor Jody Smith and her pro-drilling colleagues at a time when many of us weren’t even aware of the threat. 

Tom and Al couldn’t muster a majority to enact a drilling moratorium or to keep the Council from ignoring the will of the citizens on that fateful evening of January 21, 2010. (More on that below.)  But I’ll never forget how hard they tried. 

I urge you not to, either.

I’ve gotten to know both Tom and Melissa well over the past couple of years, and I can say unequivocally that I respect, trust and admire them both greatly.  Either would serve our town well. 

But I believe Tom is hands-down the better choice.  Not only has he been a voice of reason on two divided Town Councils; he has exhibited the rare ability to listen respectfully to his colleagues and constituents while leading with the strength of his convictions.

Tom’s vision of a Flower Mound that remains true to its high standards while being more flexible and open to economic development is more than just campaign rhetoric.  Moreover, he has the business acumen, leadership skills and can-do attitude needed to effect needed change at Town Hall.

Tom Hayden should be the next Mayor of Flower Mound.

Filidoro vs. Webb

This one should be a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, Al Filidoro has made some mistakes recently that have opened the door to a man who, in my opinion, long ago disqualified himself from ever being considered Town Council material, Bryan Webb.

Let’s be honest.  Al can be a polarizing figure.  He doesn’t suffer fools, he has made rude comments to fellow Councilmen, and he sometimes doesn’t play well with others.  His opposition to Kroger’s planned $14 million renovation and expansion was foolish, and may cost him the election.

But I’ll take a rough-around-the-edges Filidoro – a man who fought alongside Tom Hayden when his town needed him most – over a man who unabashedly sided with the pro-drilling minority and deservedly lost in a landslide to Steve Lyda two years ago.

Bryan Webb would like you to forget that he was once one of the town’s most vocal drilling apologists.  He spoke in favor of the infamous Centralized Collection Facility (CCF) vote in January 2010.  He proudly held a “Gas is Good” sign alongside former Mayor Smith and the author of one of the crudest, most vulgar and alarming blog posts most of us have ever read.  The three were celebrating the industrialization of Hilliard Field, bringing gas drilling closer than ever to neighborhoods, a church and the heart of Flower Mound.

(For the record, I agree that gas is good.  I also believe batteries are good.  But I wouldn’t wave a sign with those words in front of Exide’s battery recycling plant in Frisco.  I believe paper is good.  But a paper mill has no place in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  I believe Drano and Tide are good.  But forgive me if I don’t want to live next to a chemical plant.  And as much as I like my natural gas water heater, I didn’t move my family to Flower Mound to live amidst scores of gas wells.)

Webb not only signed a lease with Keystone Exploration prior to the last election, he recently reaffirmed that decision by executing an amendment to extend the lease.  (The good folks at Keystone, by the way, are currently suing Flower Mound.)  So not only did he make clear where his loyalties still lie, Webb doubled-down on the fiscally dubious decision to sell his minerals at historically low, rock bottom prices at a time when the industry is cutting back on production in a desperate attempt to reduce the overwhelming glut of natural gas on the market.

Bryan Webb now says he’s heard the people of Flower Mound and will not try to overturn the town’s new Oil and Gas Ordinance.  Well, isn’t that comforting? 

Al Filidoro would never have to make that statement, because he fought people like Webb to enact that ordinance. 

I don’t agree with everything Al has done during his tenure on Town Council, but we agree on far more issues than we disagree.  And most important, not only do I trust Al, I won’t forget where he stood when Flower Mound needed him to be strong: On the opposite side of the street from Bryan Webb and his “Gas is Good” sign.

Lyda vs. Dixon

Steve Lyda was swept into office two years ago with a mandate to stop the relentless march of the gas drillers on Flower Mound.  He has fulfilled that mandate in spades.

Lyda’s efforts would never have been necessary, though, had Steve Dixon cast the right votes in 2009 and 2010. 

I consider Steve Dixon a friend.  I recently purchased my company’s health insurance policy through his agency.  Steve and I have disagreed vociferously in the past on the gas drilling debate, yet we managed to remain friends throughout.  I wish I could say the same for others with whom I’ve disagreed.

I respect Steve for that; and despite our disagreements, I would never challenge his integrity.  He is a good man, and I highly recommend that you buy your insurance from him. But I can’t support his quest to return to Town Council.

Steve Dixon held the swing vote on January 21, 2010, that could have chan
ged the course of Flower Mound’s history.  But instead of heeding the will of the 600-plus citizens that packed Town Hall in opposition to the CCF vote, Dixon sided with Williams Production and the pro-drilling minority.  On two other occasions – in late 2009 and again in May 2010 – Dixon cast the deciding vote against a drilling moratorium.

Then, on June 7, 2010, in a move that I will never forget, Dixon sided with the new NFL-led majority on Town Council and voted FOR a drilling moratorium that was much broader in scope than any he had ever previously opposed.  This time, his vote was meaningless, since passage was a foregone conclusion.  Months after so many of us had fruitlessly begged for his support, Dixon’s belated “aye” felt like a punch to the gut.

Steve Lyda has done a fine job in his two years on Council.  Like Filidoro, he was there when Flower Mound needed him.  He has earned another two years to build on his record. 

My friend Steve Dixon was on the wrong side of history two years ago.  He had a chance to earn our enduring loyalty, and our vote, then.  Instead, he opted to veer in the opposite direction, and I can’t overlook that.

In Conclusion

I believe Tom Hayden will become one of the finest mayors to ever lead our town.  He is an exceptional public servant whose actions and reputation are above reproach.  It’s a shame that he is being supported by the pro-drilling crowd simply because his last name doesn’t begin with an N, F or L.  They know that nobody fought harder to stem the tide of gas drilling in Flower Mound than Tom, even before that was the popular position.  They’re nuts if they think that’s going to change.

With Tom in the Mayor’s office, Flower Mound will be a more welcoming destination for the kind of retail, commercial and residential development we all want to see.  He’ll also foster a climate of respect and collegiality that has been sorely lacking on Council of late.

With Al Filidoro and Steve Lyda re-elected to Town Council, we need not worry that when natural gas prices inevitably rise and drilling again becomes a lucrative endeavor, our ordinances will be gutted on the altar of the almighty dollar.

Economic development is essential to broaden our tax base and position Flower Mound for a prosperous future.  Let’s just make certain that we preserve the qualities that make our town a magnet for families first, so businesses are attracted to us for more than just our minerals.

But that’s just one man’s opinion…

Ladd Biro
Flower Mound, TX

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