Thursday, April 18, 2024

Denton canvasses council member’s recall, pot decriminalization ordinance

In a sometimes heated special called meeting on Tuesday, the Denton City Council officially canvassed the results of two propositions that were approved in the general election early this month.

Election result canvassing is usually an uneventful, ministerial procedure for city councils, but it wasn’t Denton’s usual election. On the ballot were a recall effort against council member Alison Maguire and a new ordinance to decriminalize low-level marijuana offenses, and both were approved by voters. A lot of council members didn’t like at least one of the results, but they ultimately agreed to affirm the election results.

Alison Maguire

After council redistricting late last year, the conservative area of Robson Ranch was moved into Maguire’s District 4, and many of her new constituents signed a recall petition because of her politics and a misunderstood meme. With voter approval, Maguire’s removal was officially confirmed by the City Council on Tuesday. Her seat will remain empty until the May 2023 election, when her term expires. Mayor Gerard Hudspeth read a proclamation to thank Maguire for her service to the city in her 1.5 years on council, and Maguire spoke briefly, saying she’s disappointed that her term ended this way, but she’s going to stay involved in the community and local politics.

“You haven’t seen the last of me,” Maguire said.

Many council members spoke out against the recall, but they agreed to carry out the will of the people.

“This was a political hit job,” said Councilman Brandon McGee. “An effort to flip the council in a conservative tilt.”

The meeting devolved into council members bickering about some of them turning a ministerial meeting into political theater, as they shared their thoughts on the ordinances and on their fellow council members. McGee critiqued Hudspeth’s leadership in the meeting, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

“Thank you very much for the feedback, I just think you delivered it poorly,” Hudspeth said.

The new marijuana ordinance means that Denton police officers will be directed to no longer write tickets or make arrests for possession of small amounts of pot and paraphernalia, and to no longer stop and frisk people when they smell weed. The new ordinance will not apply when Denton police are investigating felony crimes, nor will it apply to state and federal agencies or to the Texas Woman’s University and University of North Texas jurisdictions.

City Manager Sarah Hensley spoke out against the marijuana ordinance, citing state marijuana laws and difficulty in directing the police department to follow the new ordinance. Hudspeth also resisted the marijuana ordinance, as he pointed out that the city charter says the council, and the people, can’t interfere with direct reports to the city manager, such as the police department.

The ordinance was, despite the mayor and city manager’s comments, extremely popular with voters and the results were confirmed unanimously by council. Hensley said she will provide an update to City Council about the implementation of the ordinance “in the coming months.”

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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