Respect for Democracy is the Key, Not Manipulated Facts and False Issues

Respect for Democracy is the Key,
Not Manipulated Facts and False Issues
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

Addison has learned some hard lessons about the importance of democratic principles during the past few years. One lesson is that issues come and go, but our system endures.  And that demonstrates the importance of electing councilmembers who believe in the co-equal seven-member council established by Addison’s Charter and who will be a positive part of the deliberative process contemplated by the Charter.  The fact is that service on the council must always be a selfless exercise in commitment to the deliberative body.  It can never be about self-aggrandizement.

In other words, it is all about the process – the democratic process.  Therefore, in choosing 3 councilmembers in the May 2018 election, Addison voters must carefully evaluate the willingness of each candidate to respect our democratic, city-manager/council form of government.  Other issues come and go, but commitment to the DEMOCRATIC PROCESS is the key issue that will decide Addison’s future.

Addison voters must remain diligent because those who would divide us are still here. This is the small group that has invented issues during each of the prior two elections in an effort to influence voters.  Fortunately, they are easy to spot because their methodology is formulaic.  Here’s how it works.  First, they start pressing an issue with the clear intent of making it the lynchpin for their candidate(s)’ campaign(s).  The issue is presented in a one-sided manner, omitting material facts and/or suppressing information that would contradict the claims being made.  The faux issue provides a springboard for personal attacks on prior staff, councils and/or candidates, by way of suggesting that only this group can “get it right.”  And, for good measure, they seek bad publicity for Addison based on the faux issue.

The past two years confirm their methodology. For example, two years ago, the ex-mayor brought back his handpicked shill accountant (who was paid six figures worth of our tax dollars).  The accountant obediently attacked Addison’s present and former staff regarding issues that had either been addressed or didn’t exist.  And, there was the usual bad publicity for Addison.  It was a campaign of lies that was only possible because Lea Dunn’s key memo was improperly suppressed by the ex-mayor’s administration.  When Lea Dunn’s memo was finally released, we saw the truth and it bore no resemblance to the campaign of lies.  It was all staged to influence voters.

We saw the same formula last year. The same ex-mayor used Addison’s email list to attack Mayor Chow and Councilmember Braun, falsely suggesting that they were not eligible to run for council.  He omitted the key language of the Charter proposition adopted by Addison voters to establish term limits.  He also omitted the fact that the issue had been presented to Addison’s attorney, who opined that both Mayor Chow and Councilmember Braun were eligible.  Another faux issue, staged to influence voters.

I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s the same group using the same formula to manipulate the message.  And this year is no different.  This year, the faux issue is the wind turbine lawsuit.  These folks have been beating the drum about this lawsuit for weeks.  The formula is there: the misleading information, the bad publicity, and the attacks on prior staff, most notably Ron Whitehead, whose 32 years of service is responsible for almost all of the beauty you see around you.  I’ve written a lot about the wind turbine lawsuit.  It’s one lawsuit, it was inherited by the current council, it will be resolved by trial or settlement, and it won’t make or break Addison.  Addison has far bigger fish to fry.

The good news is that in the current election, you’ll know who these folks are, because they’ll toe the party line and beat the wind turbine lawsuit drum. Don’t fall for it.  There are many other issues on which we should all focus.  Here are just a few that come to mind:

  • The prior administration committed $6.5 million to the Addison Grove project, and also voted to pay that out of current maintenance and operations budgets. That means that each year, Addison will be forced to forego some maintenance or other activity in order to pay this obligation. Does the candidate agree with that decision? Doesn’t it burden current residents who will never see a return on their investment (estimated two years ago to be 23 years assuming a full build)? Shouldn’t future residents who will benefit be required to shoulder some of the burden of the $6.5 million?
  • Putting aside the staggering number, wouldn’t it have made more sense to issue bonds for the $6.5 million, thereby lessening the burden on current residents, while imposing some of the burden on future residents? Did we miss a golden opportunity to do just that, given that interest rates are rising? Should we float bonds now?
  • Does the candidate believe in a competitive compensation policy for Addison’s staff? Do they understand the dynamic of North Central Texas, where Addison competes with neighboring communities for employees?
  • Is the candidate fully informed of staffing issues in the police and fire departments that escalated during the prior administration? Is the candidate committed to ensuring a competitive compensation package for safety personnel?
  • Does the candidate believe in living within a budget, i.e., not overspending the budget?
  • If elected, will this candidate ever actively seek negative publicity for Addison? Do they believe that negative publicity for Addison helps advance Addison’s interests? Do they believe that negative publicity for Addison aids Addison’s economic development efforts?
  • Does the candidate believe that attacking present or former staff creates a positive working environment for Addison’s staff? Do such attacks help or hurt efforts to recruit quality employee candidates?

In my view, these are some of the key issues that will impact Addison’s future. And to deal with these issues, we need a council committed to our democratic system of government. Above all, the councilmembers we elect must believe in the council/city manager form of government, and must be committed to being part of a positive deliberative process.

So, don’t be fooled by this small group and its latest faux election issue. Keep Addison positive and moving forward, solving problems and serving residents.  Addison deserves nothing less.  THAT’S the Addison Way.