Addison residents who were unhappy—even outraged—over the Council’s action to kill the Mayor’s newsletter won a victory Tuesday night. But it was victory despite a Council that held firm on refusing to reinstate the Mayor’s newsletter.
So what happened to make it a victory? Good old-fashioned practicality and legal access. When all attempts to reinstate the newsletter failed, the Mayor requested that he—and any other Council member—be given access to the mailing list so he could send out his own newsletter. After going into an executive session with the Town lawyer to be educated on the legality of usage of this list, the Council went back into session and the motion passed 6-1 to allow the Mayor to use the mailing list. Bruce Arfsten abstained. Thus, to several Council members’ chagrin, the Mayor and his supporters achieved a victory!
The Beforehand Battle
Getting to the victory was a long and somewhat painful process. During the public hearing, those who opposed the reinstatement—including Neil Resnik, Linda Groce, Ralph Doherty and Sue Halpern—delivered their opinions with extremely personal and disparaging comments against the Mayor as well as mentioning rather trite examples like, “Who needs to read about the weather?”
Those in favor of the reinstatement, however, delivered much more content-oriented presentations. They expressed their belief in having the right to hear from their elected officials and the value of knowing about their involvements—all aspects of the Mayor’s newsletter that cannot be handled by staff members. Individuals who reported on the collection of petition signatures shared how eagerly residents wanted to sign the petitions and would comment on how they missed hearing about new businesses, restaurants and personal accounts of functions attended by the Mayor and Council members.
Overall 322 residents signed the reinstatement petitions—residents not from just one neighborhood but those representing all areas of the Town. And, as Carol Blair commented on the importance of the newsletter to the business community she ended with some clarifying information. She explained that she just wanted to make something clear—contrary to an email sent to a group of opposing individuals, stating that the Mayor was circulating a petition and had mailed out post cards for a website, that information was not true. She explained that a group of supportive citizens had launched the petition campaign and that she personally had sent out post cards that were privately printed and paid for promoting sign-ups for the Facts Matter newsletter.
It was additionally mentioned that numerous residents had sent letters to Council members expressing their opinions. Among letters in favor of the reinstatement was a lengthy, extremely articulate letter written by resident Susie Hayes. Ms. Hayes had given permission to publicly read her letter. Four individuals read respective parts of it to ensure that all of its content became public record.
Hayes spoke for many of the supporters when she wrote, “By what legal authority do you have to censor the information I choose to receive directly from my Mayor? Free speech is a fundamental right in this country that has repeatedly been upheld by the Supreme Court, even if you do not agree with what is being said. This newly elected council has infringed on my right as a citizen and taxpayer to acquire and receive information on Town activities, which my tax dollars support.
“Every elected official has a duty and obligation to report information, good or bad, to the voters. When an elected official tries to infringe on my rights and suppress information to the electorate, I have to ask ‘what are you trying to hide?’”
Despite the overwhelming outcry of support for reinstatement the majority of the council members refused to budge. Al Angell delivered a long 7-point lecture on his philosophy that guided his decision. He very pointedly attempted to discredit the number of signatures in favor of reinstatement saying that the 76% of people who spoke previously in favor of keeping the Mayor’s newsletter in no way “scientifically” represented a majority. He also developed his own conclusion that “those in favor are in favor of a strong Mayor form of government.” Quite an assumption.
Throughout the process common courtesies seemed to fall by the wayside among some of the opponents who abruptly blurted out comments in the midst of council discussion. Among the most vocal was Ralph Doherty, who once served respectfully as the Town’s P&Z chair. Also, seemingly a violation of a council member’s appropriate behavior, one council member and an audience member were observed texting to one-another.
The debate went back and forth for a lengthy spell and when the vote came the vote was 5-2 not to reinstate the Mayor’s newsletter with Duffy, Walden, Angell, Arfsten and Hughes voting against and Meier and Wilcox voting in favor.
A Possible Alternative
Ivan Hughes then proposed what he considered a compromise to please both sides of the issue. He proposed a staff written newsletter with a Mayor’s Corner or Council Corner section which would clearly be seen by readers as information coming from elected official’s positions. After considerable debate for and against that, it too failed with a 4-3 vote with Arfsten, Walden, Duffy and Angell against and Hughes, Meier and Wilcox in favor.
It was at this point that Meier requested to receive the mailing list.
A lot of blame game
There was a whole lot of blame game going on throughout the contentious discussion. Opponents of the Mayor’s newsletter blame the newsletter for polarizing the community—totally ignoring the divisiveness that has existed from the onset with this new council.
Duffy attempted to convey that he recently withdrew his Ethics Complaint in an effort to begin some healing, but immediately turned around and blamed the Mayor for the continued divisiveness by putting the newsletter item back on the agenda.
That criticism was pretty well discredited when the Mayor explained that it was the numerous requests from citizens that prompted him to put the issue back on the agenda. He also explained that Duffy’s withdrawal did nothing to heal or change anything because once the Ethics Complaint was filed the damage had been done since the complaint goes forward until a decision is made. What his comment did do, however, was create discussion among some attendees afterwards noting that Duffy’s withdrawal clearly showed that filing the complaint was simply personal and political from the beginning.
Other Agenda Activities
Walden requested that items #7 & #9 be pulled from the consent agenda. Item #7 dealt with a resolution amending the Public Information Policy, a policy Walden had a variety of questions about despite explanations from the City Secretary and the City Manager. He also had questions about #9, which dealt with a resolution appointing council members to serve on the Finance Committee. “I don’t see the value of this” Walden said. “Abolish it.”
Hughes tried to explain the value but seemed to get nowhere so both items will now be addressed in a future work session. As one resident commented later, “There sure seems to be a lot of education needed with this new council.”
Item #11 on the agenda, Present, Review and Discuss History of Transparency for the Town of Addison was moved to the next Council session in the essence of time. Given this Council’s penchant for suppressing an element of transparency by consistently attempting to deprive the citizens of any direct communication from their Mayor, this should be an interesting session to attend.
A presentation regarding Taste Addison 2016 had mixed results. Attendance was not as strong as anticipated, about 10,000 less than anticipated. However, with the new financial controls put in place the updated process enabled the Finance team to quickly compile the necessary information at the end of each day and at the end of the event. Total attendance was 15,094 with revenues of $790,152 and expenditures of $1,015,899.
The council unanimously approved authorizing the City Manager to sign an agreement with the Comptroller of Public Accountants for the repayment of sales tax in the amount of $827,540.76. This will be paid with a 49-month payback agreement with 48 payments of $16,889.00 and a final payment of $16,868.76. This repayment occurred because of a company leaving Addison in 2011 and moving their business location to another city. They only notified the Comptrollers office in October 2015 of the move and requested a correction of the filings. The Town was not culpable in being overpaid.
Setting the Record Straight
A woman who lives in Farmers Branch approached an Addison resident at Church this past Sunday and told her that she heard the old SAMS site was going to be low-income apartments. The Addison resident corrected that rumor and advised the woman about the actual development going in at that property. Naturally the Addison resident found this misinformation unsettling and curious that this negative rumor is being circulated throughout Farmers Branch. If you have friends who live in this neighboring community you might want to be sure they have their facts right.
The wrap-up of the town’s Visioning and Strategic Planning Process for this year will be held at the TreeHouse at 5 p.m. today, Thursday, June 30.
There will be only one council meeting in July—July 12.
Soon you’ll be receiving the Mayor’s Newsletter. In the meantime, you can find the new Mayor’s website at: AddisonMayorsNewsletter.com
Photo via Petr & Bara Ruzicka
The Facts Matter Website is made possible through the generous donations from Angels of Addison.