A little over a week ago on 5/23/19, I posted an article regarding the City Council and their contemplation of modifying a code that relinquished some of their authority. I sent a copy of that post to the Mayor and each of the 6 City Council members. I received two responses. One council member sent an email suggesting a small error in the referenced newspaper article. One council member sent an email whereby an informed discussion could result. I appreciated that. The discussion was mature and, as with most discussions, some points we agreed on and some we didn't. That's okay. That's the American Way. Five City Council voters did not respond in any manner.
At issue was the question of whether City Council should relinquish some of it's oversight authority. My position was a resounding NO!! The City Management style of government is okay. It is efficient, and cost control is usually better. However, under that style of government, voters only get to vote for the City Council. No one else. It then becomes the responsibility of Council to run the city, but these are the officials the citizens vote for.
It makes absolutely no sense to me why any City Council should want to reduce their authority. The more authority residing where we have opportunities to vote, the better I like it. We must have oversight. I am uncomfortable where people have authority to act on civic matters and I don't get the opportunity to vote on it. Therefore, I expect City Council, who I vote for, to retain the authority to correct any wrong.
The subject issue here is that it is being proposed that Council modify Chapter 77-704 of the Rowlett Development Code to require that a super majority vote of Council be required to overturn a super majority vote of the Planning & Zoning Commission. At first glance, that doesn't sound so bad. However, if you think about it, a huge dilution of authority is present. The proposed change will not effect most votes regarding P&Z actions, but its reasonable to assume that where this change comes into play will be on very important issues. I want people I vote for to make those important decisions; not some unelected staff member or appointee.
Now remember, this proposed change will impose the rules on all future City Councils.
Now, let's look at some numbers. A super majority is 75% of voting council members, plus the mayor. In Rowlett, that's 7 votes. Seventy five percent of 7 is 5.25. Rowlett's City Attorney says any vote of 5 for, and 2 against, is not a super majority. The 5.25 must be rounded up to 6. Therefore, the proposed change would require a 6 to 1 vote to override a super majority P&Z vote. Folks,I ain't likin' those numbers. I can't do anything about the P&Z. I don't vote for them. But, I do vote for Council, and I want them to have the authority to correct any perceived mistake. If I don't like the way they run things, I can vote against them.
If the subject changes are made, and a sufficiently important P&Z issue came before Council, A 6 to 1 vote would be required. How do you know that two council members weren't dropped on their heads when a baby? Do you have any assurances of that? Was it addressed during their campaigns? Two votes would control important issues to Rowlett. I don't like that. That means 5 votes didn't count. When a minority controls the votes of a body of voters that is 2.5 times larger, something is wrong.
The above are my reasons for not supporting the proposal. However, that leads me to two unsettling questions. Who? and Why?
Who? If we know who proposed this change to Council, it might help answer the Why question. I asked that question of the responding council member (with whom I appreciated the dialogue and their time spent in answering my questions). The response was:
"I believe the request was initiated by staff and P&Z with support from several Councilmembers."
That answer is a little vague. Did they all wake up one day and say, "Hey, we need to make some changes to the good ole 77-704?" Somebody is pushing this. Still, WHO?
As I wrote above, several emails were exchanged with a council member. They were mature discussions. Altho this council person acknowledged my concerns, and agreed to some extent, they are still going to cast their vote in favor of changing 77-704. I was told it was a "compromise" vote. Below is lifted out of the email.
"I proposed the following compromise which we will adopt. The "compromise" we came to a consensus on was a super majority vote by Council will be required to override a super majority denial by P& Z on zoning changes only."
It sounds like the decision has already been made.
The dictionary defines "compromise" as a position taken between two opposing ideas. Of course, I don't want the council to relinquish ANY authority. That's my position. Of course, all I knew was that the opposing view was to give away some authority. So......the "compromise" is to give away the authority?!! The answer above makes me wonder what the first unknown proposal was. It looks like I was always against the resulting "compromise." The original proposal must have been along the order of giving all the keys to the city to somebody. We would then have a council with absolutely no authority.....well, maybe a little left to schedule meetings and attend photo ops.
Why? I have been told other cities "do it." Well, I don't give a rat's tail what other cities do. I don't vote, pay taxes, or live in other cities. I care what Rowlett does. I want someone to tell me what's good about this. The only reason I have been given so far is that other cities "do it." However, the engaging council member said that some rumblings have come in regarding some recent overrides of P&Z. Some suggestions were that maybe some hanky panky was going on. I highly doubt that. For one thing, historically, in any cities with chicanery going on, the P&Z Commissions are usually the culprits, not the City Councils. City Councils usually have more visible profiles. But, Rowlett is rife with Facebook intellectuals that know without question (or information) what's going on, and excel in group think. I remain dumbfounded with the musings of the Facebook intellectuals that abound in Rowlett.
So, here we are, with all the rhetoric above, alleged improved transparency, compromised efforts, and "better understanding of the role of the city," with basically two questions, neither of which I can answer. Who? and Why?
What we have gotten so far about proposed changes is word salad, or nothing at all. How's that for transparency? Of course, the enormous amount of information about Bayside that we receive tends to crowd out any additional transparency. Anyone have a clue about what's happening at Bayside?
Transparency is not running amuck.