Well, another Flower Mound campaign season is entered into the history books. Once again, the system worked because the people decided who they wanted to govern them for the next two years. Yes, there were plenty of political attacks and even some personal jabs at those brave folks who jumped into the arena of ideas and opinions. But, the good news is that no one was physically assaulted or deterred from expressing their views on public forums or from casting their votes at the ballot box.
I realize it may sound cliché to say there are no losers in an election, but, that’s because we often see victory as a numbers game. Yet, without people who are willing to expose themselves to the rough and tumble world of politics, we’d all be losers. Try to imagine a President, Governor, Congressman, or a Town Council that felt invulnerable in their respective offices because no one had the courage to run against them. How long would it take before they became so arrogant that they treated their constituents with utter disdain? People who are willing to challenge elected officials are the best example of the checks and balances within the system.
Now that the smoke has cleared we all should be congratulating the victors because they represent the predilections of the residents. Don’t waste time saying that very few people came out to vote because that fact also represents how the people feel. As I wrote in a prior column some weeks ago; there didn’t seem to be a hot-button issue that would impel voters to the polls this year. My opinion was that there didn’t appear to be enough passion in the community to break any records at the voting booth on Election Day.
In order to unseat an incumbent, or one with public service and name recognition gathered over the years on various boards and commissions, a challenger must have an issue that will motivate residents to get involved. The only issue that seemed to have legs, albeit wobbly ones, was the school rezoning dispute. However, once residents discerned that the Council shouldn’t be held responsible for an LISD function, the subject began to fizzle out. Another topic of unquestionable legitimacy, in this new era of abundant development, was the very familiar cry to save the trees. It should go without saying that, unless you build in a desert, no construction can occur without clearing some portion of land.
Nevertheless, it’s important to add that some developers, if left unimpeded, would cut down every living thing in the way of making a profit. That’s why arborists and other tree-lovers are essential to the dialogue in a community known for its beautiful trees and flowers. It’s safe to say that without their indefatigable efforts to keep us semi-rural, we might indeed become a concrete jungle. Yet, whenever this subject was posted on the Flower Mound Cares Facebook page, it was rapidly answered by Council members and even by our Town Manager.
It’s an old axiom in politics that criticism should be dealt with swiftly, before it takes on a life of its own. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised to see the Mayor and other Council members respond so deftly and graciously on that public forum. I was particularly impressed to occasionally see Jimmie Strathatos submit a comment or a thumbs up when he felt it was appropriate. What that says about him and other reps in our town is that they are not elitists who might feel they are too good to engage in direct dialogue with their constituents on a public forum that could become a vicious and embarrassing brawl.
Again, in my opinion, their attention to those comments, coupled with their quick responses, went a long way toward convincing residents that this Council considers transparency to be an essential part of governing. How often does the average person get the chance to engage in a dialogue with their elected reps on a daily basis? In most cases, people get turned off to government because they feel no connection with it except on Election Day, and even then they’re often reluctant to vote for the same reason. One of the best campaign strategies is door-to-door meetings with voters because people tend to remember the candidates that took the time to walk the neighborhoods. Responding on public forums may be the next best thing to ringing doorbells.
Congratulations to Jean Levenick and Mike Walker; they worked hard to earn their victory. Kudos to Joy Bowen and Tami Ryan for their valiant effort; they gave residents a choice. Undoubtedly, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.