Your View: Guest column - Trinity Council methods still questionable

Jan. 14, 2013 @ 03:42 AM

BY PHILLIP CHADWELL

Early in 2012, Trinity’s City Council was working its way through newly elected members whose views differed greatly from the previous members they replaced. Tempers flared, respectfulness dimmed, and reverence for the governing process waned. Nine months later one would hope that the council would have found some common ground and be able to work together. Unfortunately this is not the case.
At the pre-agenda meeting on Jan. 8, five council members voted to remove two long-standing dedicated citizens from committees charged with reviewing parks and infrastructure issues. During the previous council meeting Councilwoman Debbie Frazier requested to not make committee placements because Councilman Ed Lohr was not present. Councilman Barry Lambeth respectfully agreed and seconded the motion. At this pre-agenda meeting, two of the council were unable to attend, Lambeth and Kristen Varner. Mutual respect would dictate that at least Councilman Lambeth be awarded the same respect he offered. It did not happen that way. Why was it not important this time that all the council is present for the committee placements? Could it be that it is likely the missing members would have motioned to allow these two citizens to finish out their second terms?
As for disregarding the governing process, at the same pre-agenda meeting some council members tried to reverse Mayor Carlton Boyles’s recent decision to change assignments to mayor-appointed committees for personnel and finance. After the newest council members were elected in 2011, Boyles shuffled committee assignments to, in his paraphrased words, allow the lesser experienced members to gain knowledge from those more experienced in these matters. There was no uproar from the council members that were unassigned to these committees. The authority and the process were honored. Last month, Mayor Boyles again shuffled the committee membership based on lack of results from 2012’s committees. Councilwoman Frazier has refused her new assignment. During the pre-agenda meeting Councilwoman Linda Gantt requested that Boyles reverse his decision and place her personnel committee membership as it was during 2012. When Gantt’s request was not granted, Councilwoman Frazier abruptly made a motion to remove the mayor’s authority to change appointed committee membership and place this authority with the council. Councilman Chester Ayers quickly seconded the motion. Interestingly enough, these motions seemed to be being read from an already prepared paper. After much contested discussion, a decision was finally put off until the upcoming City Council meeting. Why would such a far-reaching decision be attempted during a pre-agenda meeting that is missing two council members and has no allowance for public comment?
Trinity’s form of government has built-in checks and balances. The mayor has certain authorities, the Council has certain authorities, and the city manager has certain authorities. If this council majority is allowed to have their way, all power will shift to them and they will have free ability to make whatever changes they like. Imagine if the federal government allowed one of the three branches to assume total control. Imagine the American Constitution being changed at the whim of each year’s newly elected members to Congress or the Senate. It is time for citizens of Trinity to participate in the process or be victims of it. Much damage can yet be done between now and November.

Phillip Chadwell lives in Trinity.