Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not Quite as Open Mic in Dallas

The Dallas City Council is proposing rule changes for public speakers at council meetings. Dallas proposes moving up the deadline to request time to 5 p.m. the day before the meeting. Also, if you have spoken within the last 30 days, your time will be limited to one minute, instead of three minutes allotted to everyone else.

After the jump, my thoughts about how this is handled in Dallas and Richardson.



The changes in Dallas are probably designed to minimize the time wasted by regular speakers who, as The Dallas Morning News's Steve Thompson puts it, "are clearly troubled, speak to no particularly relevant issue, and often make little sense." Such people clearly need help, but the City Council's changes provide no help while chipping away at the rights of everyone to petition their government. So while I sympathize with the council's predicament, I don't support their solution to the problem.

Richardson has no deadline for requesting time (just complete a card prior to a meeting and present it to the city secretary), a five minute rule and no restrictions on repeat speakers. I can't remember the last time the visitors section of the council meetings has been abused. Speakers don't always have their facts straight and aren't always courteous, but they are not "troubled." Let them have their five minutes, at as many meetings as they want.

So, I'm happy with Richardson's rules as they are. Now, if I could only get the Council or someone on the city staff to follow up with a public response to questions, suggestions or complaints raised during visitors section, I'd be completely satisfied.



P.S. I've changed my habit of abbreviating "microphone" as "mike" to "mic" following feedback received from one reader who makes the reasonable point that microphone is spelled with a "c" not a "k." In my defense, I could point to Wikipedia, but I aim to please, so, open mic it is. ;-)

44 comments:

Mark Steger said...

The proposal in Dallas to cut speaking time from 3 minutes to 1 minute for citizens who have spoken in the last 30 days has been dropped.

Nathan Morgan said...

Well Mark, as the cause of the current 5 minute restriction, at the time affectionately named the "Nathan Morgan Rule", on the amount of time citizens of Richardson are permitted to speak in public meetings, I have my own perception of what measures are appropriate for public officials to limit public discourse.

Arbitrarily constraining citizen input to five minutes places an unreasonable limit on how much detail can be raised about a given issue the citizen wishes to address. As evidenced by the amount of time any issue is addressed by the Council itself, five minutes is simply not an adequate length of time for proper delivery of the circumstances on much of any public issue. I would be happy with the five minute rule if five minutes was all the time Council had to speak also.

That said, the Open Meetings Act addresses the issue of public input, stipulating that rules of the governing body are to be such that liberal application is afforded public input.

As a duly appointed County Judge, I have had to rule in cases involving one form of public input, being the right to vote.

I have ruled in cases of citizens having marginal mental capacity and deemed them legally qualified to vote. So, I would suggest that, if a person is legally qualified to vote, they are also qualified to deliver their input on any matter of public business, especially in public meetings of the governing body.

The Richardson City Council goes beyond what is reasonable. If an issue of public concern is simply too complicated to describe and provide input within the five minute limit, another citizen may not yield their five minutes so that the issue may be fully addressed. Thus, the governing body can be rightly accused of preventing the issue from being addressed, and blocking proper public input. This seems to be the design of the five minute rule in Richardson, as numerous citizens have been cut short in their delivery and the full impact of their concern has been denied by the City Council.

Case in point, let's consider this posting. Start the clock and read it. See if you can speak these few words within five minutes, never mind getting any kind of response within the allotted time.

As for the lack of response from the horse shoe, I agree. Few things are more aggravating than to attempt to press and issue with public servants who refuse to listen or acknowledge the concern. This is what causes citizens to speak to the audience and for the record, knowing full well that the Council is going to blow it off.

Mark Steger said...

Nathan, thanks for your perspective. I'm glad to hear you support my call for the city to give public responses to the issues raised during visitors section.

As for whether the five minute time limit on speakers is unreasonable, that's a subjective matter that I disagree with you on. The time limit forces speakers to focus. In my experience listening to public input, I can pretty much understand the point and supporting arguments well before the five minutes are up. If the time limit is partially responsible for that, good for the time limit. On the other hand, perhaps if only one person has asked to speak on a given night, a more generous time limit might be affordable without competing with other council business. In short, I'm not wedded to five minutes, but it's an OK compromise, in my opinion.

Nathan Morgan said...

Mark, I fully understand your perspective, but, as you might imagine, disagree.

When the 5 minute limit was proposed, then Councilman Pris Hayes stated, "I don't have time to listen to this." I think that pretty much sums up their attitude toward the citizens.

The whole point is that listening to, and responding to the public demands comes with the meal. There is a reason the laws of this democratic republic are composed the way they are. That is, the government derives its powers from the consent (not hi-jacking) of the public. How can these people serve the public if they neither listen or respond to legitimate citizen concerns?

When governments close their eyes and ears to the voice of the people they are charged to serve, we have trouble. This is exactly why our Internet publications exist. There is no suitable venue for the peoples' input in matters of public business. Based on my experience behind the lectern, I'd say that's the way they want it. Blind, deaf and dumb.

Our elected officials are ignoring us in the quest of their own agenda...or, perhaps the agenda of their peers and cohorts.

Nathan Morgan said...

Also, I do not object to interrupting someone who is clearly killing time. If the Council engaged these speakers with a few probing questions, I think a lot of hot air could be relieved from their diatribe. Of course, that would involve actually engaging the speaker's concern. That has not been a courtesy extended to the likes of me, no matter what the issue might be.

Engaging the speaker's concern to fully understand it does not violate the Open Meetings Act. Deliberation by the Council on a topic not on the Agenda does. Factual statements regarding existing policy or circumstance does not violate the Act.

Discussion of an issue not on the Agenda in a manner leading to a resolution is what is prohibited. When the conversation leans in this direction, it is incumbent upon the Council to make arrangements to properly place the matter on a future Agenda. In all my time observing the Council, some 10 years, I have never seen them place a citizen concern such as this on a future Agenda.

Another related public input issue, I'll leave a discussion of the practice of Consent Agenda for another time.

Mark Steger said...

Nathan, I see practical difficulties in enforcing your proposed rule to let speakers take as much time as needed, except for those who are "clearly killing time." Or at least practical difficulties in getting those who are cut off from accepting that the council is treating them fairly, or legally, as state law forbids a city council from discriminating among speakers for or against a particular point of view.

I also see practical difficulties in knowing when making statements of fact or existing policy crosses the line and becomes deliberation of subjects not on the agenda. Knowing that citizens are willing to sue the city for perceived violations of state law, I understand why a council would choose to say nothing at all during visitors section. If a council is not as forthcoming as citizens like, I blame the Texas Open Meetings Act, not any city council.

Nathan Morgan said...

Mark, the TOMA stipulates liberal application in favor of openness. It requires public notice to be properly posted within 72 hours of the public business to be addressed. The problem with deliberating an issue not on the Agenda is that the general public cannot possibly teleport to the meeting to contribute their input at a moment's notice if an issue comes up. Much less, study the issue and prepare a sensible position. On an aside note, consider just how much forewarning ANY citizen has to research the issues, the details of which are held secret until (sometimes) provided handouts with limited details at the actual meeting. And, at that very meeting, Council members, who have a habit of discussing upcoming issues prior to the open meetings have all but come to their decision without the benefit of public input. This is exactly why there is so little public discussion or citizen input at the open meetings.

Some would argue that 72 hours is not enough time to make travel arrangements to attend an out of town meeting. That is why the Charter, before it was recently altered, stipulated that all meetings of the Council would be held in the Municipal Building (a.k.a. City Hall), where members of the community could easily attend and provide their input.

Blaming the law is preposterous. That's like blaming God because you get arrested for robbing a bank. This post of yours seems to argue both sides of the coin, upholding the local Ordinance and condemning the Statutes.

I am more than a little familiar with the only case filed regarding the City of Richardson violating the TOMA. It started long before anyone except the RCN was posting details on the Internet. True, the vigilance of a few brave souls in reporting events has caused Richardson leadership to be just a little, shall we say, gun shy.

Based on the logic that the lowest level of governance makes the rules, that would suggest that each household writes their own law. That ain't the way it works in the U.S. of A...or my native state of Texas.

Mark Steger said...

Nathan: "Blaming the law is preposterous. That's like blaming God because you get arrested for robbing a bank."

Um, no. The City Council, by *not* deliberating matters not on the agenda, is obeying the law. If you want them to "engage the speaker's concerns," as you put it, you are asking them to risk being accused of violating the law by deliberating matters not on the agenda. If you really want more discussion, you ought to support a change in the TOMA.

Mark Steger said...

On another point, I think there might be something in that 72-hour rule that could facilitate more open discussion. How about if the city allowed citizens to request time in the visitors section *more* than 72 hours in advance? Then, the topic the visitor wants to raise could be included on the posted agenda and the council members would be free to discuss it during the visitors section. I like it.

Nathan Morgan said...

That seems reasonable to me. However, it has been my experience that anybody impinging with Management's practice of setting the Agenda would have a fight on their hands. Mr. Keffler routinely denies/delays Council requests for Agenda items. In spite of the Agenda being that of the City Council, the City Manager essentially dictates the schedule for them. I seriously doubt that your idea would get any traction, given a single Council member cannot get an item of pressing constituent concern on the Agenda. Mr. Keffler is known for telling individual Council members that he has seven bosses. And, if they can get two more Council member "votes" from others who want something on their Agenda, then he will relent and schedule it. (Of course, this would violate the TOMA prohibition on the roving quorum) Otherwise, if the issue is not of pertinence to agenda of the City Manager, the issue will receive little or no attention in a meeting of the City Council. That's just the way they work it in Richardson. This doesn't leave much room for citizen initiatives, I know. The tolerance/acceptance of this policy has been a puzzlement for me.

I like your idea. We need more thinkers like you.

As for changing the TOMA, I'm not suggesting Council violate the letter of the law. They have certainly become practiced at seeking out and exploiting grey areas in various laws. This should be no exception. The reluctance comes from them not wanting to wade into the abyss of some concerns citizens bring to their attention.

Engaging a topic not on the agenda in order to gain clarity on the issue is not a response that violates the spirit of the TOMA. There is a fine line between deliberation (discussion on an issue for the purpose of seeking resolution) and inquiring about the parameters of a citizen concern for the purpose of comprehensive understanding. How else would the Council propose to place an issue on a future agenda if they did not fully understand the concern at hand?

mccalpin said...

"As a duly appointed County Judge"

As a point of clarification, Mr. Morgan has been (in the past) an election judge appointed by Dallas County, not a County Judge, which is an elected position.

Generally in Dallas County, the election judge is normally one of the precinct chairs for the precinct, thus at any one time, there are upwards of 800 election judges in Dallas County.

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

In point of fact, the Dallas County Commissioners Court appoints Judges to officiate elections to serve limited terms in office based on recommendations from their respective political parties. They are all Dallas County Judges and have the authority of a District Judge during their time of service. This is not, as one blogger would suggest, a trivial matter.

For those who are knowledgeable and active in the political arena, there is also the elected office of Precinct Chair. Precinct Chairs have to file with their political party and the State as a candidate for this elected office. They campaign for elected term in office. The Precinct Chair is the lowest level of the political ladder, as a representative of a single precinct for their political party.

The correlation between election judge and precinct chair is only as a consequence of a party not having enough qualified candidates to fill all available positions. Frequently, a Precinct Chair will also qualify and be appointed as an Election Judge. However, those circumstances are not as coincidental as one blogger would have you believe.

The number of those who have been appointed as Judge does not equal the number of precincts. There are not 800 precincts in Dallas County. And, many of the precincts are combined under the jurisdiction of one judge. In Dallas County, the Elections Department, in cooperation with the political party, determines how many judges are needed to officiate during any given election.

Additionally, the number of Republican vs. Democrat judges who will serve under Dallas County Commissioners Court appointment is determined by the outcome of the gubernatorial race. Because Dallas county cast more votes for the Democrat running for governor last time, there are far fewer Republican judges selected for service.

The last word is that there are many judges in the legal system, including our own municipal judge, that are appointed and not elected. Our municipal judge is appointed by the City Council. The Dallas County Commissioners Court is at least one rung higher in the government hierarchy. And, the authority and jurisdiction of the level of District Judge is also a slight bit different.

I am proud to have served the Richardson community for a few years as a duly appointed Judge and elected 2710 Precinct Chair for the Republican Party of Texas.

I suppose I should take offence at citizen McCalpin's childish and condescending depiction of the weight of responsibility these positions carry. I will not dignify the remaining long list of inane opinions.

We must regain our respect for the law and those who uphold it. We need to educate the public on the benefits of a lawful society so that they grow to appreciate the sacrifices of those who do continue to stand up for what is right.

mccalpin said...

The truth is that Dallas County refers to election judges as "Election Judges", not "County Judge". If you don't believe me then take a look at places http://www.dalcoelections.org/ and http://www.dalcoelections.org/electionjudgeinfo/index.html
which are from the official Dallas County website.

If anyone said "County Judge" to anyone in the Dallas County government, they would assume that you meant Clay Jenkins - the guy actually elected to be County Judge. Claiming that an election judge is a "County Judge" is rather similar to claiming a military medal that you don't deserve.

I made only two statements: (1) that Mr. Morgan was an election judge (which is true) and (2) that election judges are normally precinct chairs, which is also true, because this is the first place that the two parties look for people to be election judges.

Therefore, for Mr. Morgan to claim that this is a "long list of inane opinions" must mean that he is referring to something else...I assume he is referring to the number of RumorCheck articles I have written on statements he has made, statements which have invariably been proven wrong on the facts.

I didn't bring this up, Mr. Morgan, but since you did, let me enlighten the reader as to some of untrue accusations you have made...
1. "Council member Steve Mitchell violated the Council Code of Ethics in discussing the Rental Registration program while owning six rent houses in Richardson" - not true, if you read both the City and the State ethics codes. http://www.rumorcheck.org/SteveMitchellEthics.html

2. "The Richardson City Charter violates provisions in the Texas Constitution by not allowing direct election of the mayor" - likely not true (because it hasn't been tested in court yet) as the language referred to was to make sure that freed slaves could vote without having to own property - http://www.rumorcheck.org/DirectElectionofMayor.html

3. "Refinancing the city's current debt, according to the City Charter, is illegal." Actually, the Charter specifically permits refinancing - http://www.rumorcheck.org/Refinancingbondsisillegal.html

4. "Councilman John Murphy broke State law when he held both his Richardson City Council seat and the post of President of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG)" - not true as most members of the NCTCOG are required to be elected officials - http://www.rumorcheck.org/NCTCOG.html

continued...

mccalpin said...

continued...

5. "The City Council violates the Texas Open Meetings Act by discussing the City Manager’s compensation package in executive session" - not true as there is an Attorney General opinion that specifically permits this - http://www.rumorcheck.org/Compensation_Package-1.html

6. "The City Council attempted to violate section 21.02 of the Charter by advertising for bids before the funding was approved" - not true since "advertising" is not the same as "approving a contract", the thing that is actually forbidden by the Charter - http://www.rumorcheck.org/21-02.html

7. "reports show near zero increase in the city's prosperity…Richardson didn't even make the list of top 200 of performing cities" - not true because you didn't understand what a "metropolitan statistical area" was - http://www.rumorcheck.org/ZeroEconomicGrowth.html

and even something as simple as 8. "The high-rise office building at 100 North Central, the tallest building on Main Street, is in foreclosure" which is not true - your error being that you didn't double check the facts - it was the shopping center across Central that was in bankruptcy, not the office tower - http://www.rumorcheck.org/100NCentral.html

Now, you may call this sampling of articles refuting statements made by you as "inane opinions"...but I notice that you have never offered any evidence that anything I wrote wasn't true...instead, you resort to snide comments and personal attacks, just like the other members of the "gotcha gang" who are desperately throwing out accusations in all directions, hoping against hope that they will get lucky and actually have one be sort of true...while never apologizing for all the false accusations after they are proven wrong...


But, really, Nathan, today is a good day, because for the first time, you have given RumorCheck a link on your website. Yes, it's labeled "McCalpin's Rumor Schlepp" and it's right under "Mark Stinker Blog", but I am looking forward to the decent and intelligent people of Richardson jumping from your site with its bounty of false accusations to RumorCheck where they will see the truth backed by hard facts...so thanks for the reference, Nathan!

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

I rest my case. There could be no more irrefutable evidence of inanity than the words of a Coalition loyalist.

Nathan Morgan said...

McCalpin, the reason I haven't responded to your ranting spins on reality is that I, along with most of those who know your ilk, don't read them any more.

I gave you an opportunity at first. But, when I came to realize how disingenuous your rebuttals typically were, I, like others, decided that there was not much hope for an intellectually honest exchange of ideas.

In forming this opinion, I use to engage your rants in an effort to share reason and logic, giving thought to the positions you espouse. It would seem that it matters not what others find disturbing, you conjure up some elaborate and tangential extraction from the core issue and claim everybody lies except you.

I don't believe I have ever met anybody so bent on challenging and denying legitimate citizen concerns. Well, maybe. John Wiley Price.

This blog thread began a substantive and meaningful exchange between Steger and me on a legitimate issue of public concern until you stepped in and detracted attention from the core issue with a typically twisted diatribe, in this case, of how the political system works in Dallas County and the State of Texas.

I have been to countless Republican gatherings, supporting the efforts of many respectable candidates for public office, local, county, state and national, who share concerns identical to those raised regarding the City of Richardson by its residents. My struggles to support and defend the values and principles that founded this country are recognized in the circle of these honorable people. I have never seen you at any of these events.

Given this observation and the counter-culture discourse in most of your postings, I can only draw the conclusion that you may be a devotee supporter of the liberal blue team. I am neither impressed or disappointed with your choice. It just seems to fit.

This could explain our difference in understanding the issues and how the point behind most any prevailing citizen outrage brought to public attention is beyond a legitimate debate.

This, my friend, is the nature of a healthy democratic republic. Thank you for your efforts. Can we use your image on a poster?

mccalpin said...

There is a common pattern of behavior among the “gotcha gang” – those fringe people who made wild accusations in the desperate hopes that they can say “gotcha!” This pattern consists of three steps:

1. Someone makes a statement that is unsubstantiated or simply untrue.
2. When challenged, that person tries to change the subject.
3. When challenged again, that person resorts to personal attacks.

Mr. Morgan has done that here:

1. He claimed that he was a County Judge.
2. When challenged, he went into a long explanation of how election judges are selected, hoping to distract the reader.
3. When challenged again, he resorted to insults: “ranting”, “inanity”, “childish and condescending”, “inane opinions”, and so on.

Sadly predictable…and obvious to everyone except the members of the gotcha gang themselves.

You will notice that not only has he offered NO evidence that anything that I’ve said was untrue, but also makes clear that he’s not going to, making remarkable statements such “until you stepped in and detracted attention from the core issue with a typically twisted diatribe, in this case, of how the political system works in Dallas County and the State of Texas.” Please tell me you are kidding! All I said was that YOU ARE NOT A COUNTY JUDGE…

After all, Nathan, if you were a County Judge, then I must have been a County Judge, too…don’t you get it, Nathan? I’ve been a precinct chair, I’ve been an election judge, I’ve been to “countless” Republican events, I’ve been a delegate to and volunteered at Republican State Senatorial District and State Conventions, I’ve got 2 degrees in Politics, and I suspect unlike you, I’ve even run for public office…this means that if you are an expert, then I must be a genius!

Why should your statements get automatic credence when I have more experience in politics than you?

Bill

mccalpin said...

So let's try to solve this problem of credibility...

I had a similar problem with Ms. Duncan-Hubert recently, in which she made a statement here on Mark's blog that I knew to be untrue.

We went through the same pattern that I listed above: she made an untrue statement, she tried to change the subject, then she started with the insults. Maybe, just maybe, you can do better…

So, Nathan, answer “yes” or “no”: did you or did you not on the evening of August 29, 2009 in the Visitors Section at the City Council meeting at City Hall state that “compensation” did not appear as a valid object to discuss under Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, with the clear implication that the City Council had violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by discussing City Manager Bill Keffler’s compensation in executive session?

If you have forgotten what you said, please see http://richardsontx.swagit.com/player.php?refid=08242009-95&item=6&pos=1108
for a quick reminder…

Simple, just tell us “yes” or “no”…

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

McCalpin, you seem to be campaigning to be the poster child for the aforementioned "common pattern of behavior".

Let's review. The topic of this thread is "open mic", and restrictions placed on citizens wishing to voice concerns at public meetings of public servants.

At least, this was the topic until you decided to denigrate me with your semantic exception to a legitimate term used to describe Judges appointed by the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Then, upon my attempt to further clarify, you saw fit to supplant the issue out into left field by addressing other citizen concerns with which you grapple.

This condition from which you suffer is exactly the reason citizens of Richardson have come to ignore these liberal renditions of morality and cursory interpretations of the law that seem to so closely mimic that of those public servants whom have been cited by concerned citizens for perpetrating offensive and objectionable acts. These are classic symptoms of one who has pledged their loyalty to a rouge regime.

Hiding behind corrupt judicial process does not legitimize corrupt activity. It only emboldens those who have no more strength of character than to exploit the opportunity and perpetuate it. Denying it does not make it go away.

There is no doubt you are a smart guy, as evidence by your academic achievements. That likely accounts for your developed talent at arguing the opposite side of citizen concerns. Your classroom credentials, however, do not ordain you as a conservator of intellectual honesty. There are a lot of smart people in prison who suffer the self-manipulated perception of reality they used to justify their socially errant behavior.

My quest has always been to be on the right side, or at least abide by the spirit of the law. Conversely, it has been my experience that those having criminal/immoral intellect consistently attempt to justify objectionable behavior by exploiting the grey areas of the law. Laws were established to protect morality, but morality can't be legislated.

This is essentially the difference between liberals and conservatives. Those who call themselves Republicans who exhibit liberal leanings have come to be known as RINOs, Republicans in name only.

In my reluctant response to your above accusation, I will, again, point out that the TOMA mandates public officials are to apply the law liberally toward openness. Unfortunate for the citizens of Richardson, liberal application of the TOMA is applied to concealment.

Similar to secret interviews with candidates for Boards and Commissions, the practice of going behind closed doors to conduct interviews and deliberate the policies of the top "employee" of the governing body deprives the public of their input. To consider this to be anything but public business is absurd.

Continued on next post...

Nathan Morgan said...

...Continued.

The TOMA specifically prohibits the use of closed meetings to limit public input. As anyone who objectively observes the proceedings in Council meetings, the Council's policy for public input on many issues is prohibitive, if not non-existent.

With reference to your most recent attack, above, the Council routinely does not disclose any of the parameters surrounding their inclination to enhance the City Manager's compensation package prior to the summarily motioned and vote to do so. Most thinking people would realize that the opportunity for public input on this matter of public business, albeit the details of which are held in confidence by those involved, does not exist. How can a citizen come to an informed position on such an issue when no public discussion on the merits takes place? Anyone who concludes an informed opportunity to provide public input exists would have to be blind to the circumstance. This condition is completely contrary to the notion of open meetings.

The good people of Texas have established that the public business belongs to the public. And, all business of government is, by definition, public business. Public servants who deny citizen access to public business have been granted few, specific exceptions to the prevailing rule for deliberation and disclosure in a properly public pre-posted notice of governing body meetings.

Given fair elections, citizens of a community have the ability choose who will represent their interests at the publics' table.

Richardson, for the selfish reasons of a few, has systemically denied equal representation. The current example is the fact that 5 of 7 seated Council members reside in, and pander to the demands of, one area of town and that area's one coalition of well-organized community activists. Coincidentally, the issues and concerns of the other, disenfranchised side of town seems to be the bane of your existence.

And, yes, my friend. If you did indeed serve as an Election Judge in Dallas County, you, too, were a Dallas County Judge. I think the difference between us may be that, during the time of Bruce Sherbet, I challenged Toni Pippins-Pool on her similar misinterpretation of some laws...and prevailed. I also paid attention when Bruce did the Judge training classes and impressed upon the hundred or more appointees the significance of the office to which they had been appointed.

I will grant you the observation that many of my judicial colleges were less focused on understanding the law than, like good Catholics, enabling others to dictate their thinking. Not of the intellectually honest, or very smart fish species. With emphasis on the throngs of Democrat appointees, there was profound ignorance and misunderstanding of the Statutes, promulgated by the tutelage of the lead Democrat who co-opted the Judge training in the Dallas County Elections Department, Toni Pippins-Poole. Google that name.

If you believe an appointed Judge is any less responsible for upholding the law than an elected one, then perhaps we should pursue a Charter change to elect by popular vote, instead of allow the City Council to appoint, the Richardson Municipal Judge.

mccalpin said...

"gotcha gang" step #2
"2. When challenged, that person tries to change the subject."

This answer to a simple "yes" or "no" question wanders all over the place, yet never says "yes" or "no". Too bad that Nathan is not comfortable enough with what he said to admit that he said it.

No matter, we know he said it because we can all see the video of him saying it.

So, the next question, Nathan, is "are you aware of the Texas Attorney General opinion H-496 (http://www.oag.state.tx.us/opinions/opinions/45hill/op/1975/pdf/jh0496.pdf), which specifically permits the discussion of compensation of an individual employee in executive session?"

"Yes" or "no", please.

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

There you go again, Bill. I'm going to try this last time to get your attention focused on the specific issue.

C'mon, use a few of those scholarly brain cells and get some friction on the the issue.

This topic you diverted to is not about an unrelated 1975 AG opinion on whether or not the compensation of some low-level employee can be discussed behind closed doors.

The issue is, however, about the absence of disclosure of the top employee's merits which are silently considered in the subsequent open meeting such that the public has no opportunity for informed public input prior to a Council action on a matter of public business.

Are you suggesting the public should have no opportunity to provide informed input on this matter of public business? "Yes" or "no", please.

The way the Richardson City Council meetings are run, there is no public discussion by the Council of the issue, just a motion and vote immediately after resuming into open session.

There is no opportunity for the public to review any of the reasons deliberated, or any conclusions/decisions made behind closed doors regarding the decision to take a vote on anything having to do with the matter.

The issue of compensation was not on the agenda. The vote was not even on the Agenda! The Council took a vote to raise the City Manager's salary and it was not on the agenda! Get it? That's a TOMA violation.

The public was systemically removed from this matter of public business. No chance for public consideration of the merits. No opportunity for informed public input. The citizens were disenfranchised by the Council. Understand? That's a TOMA violation.

This leaves the public uninformed on an important matter of public business deliberations. It also renders any informed public input impossible prior to the action taken by the Council. This behavior is PROHIBITED.

This is a profound disservice to the public and it violates the very spirit of TOMA on a number of levels.

These coalition loyalist talking point tactics of yours are getting tired. At this point, neither of us are addressing the issue of this post, my friend.

Your effort to "step #2 change the subject" from the 5 minute rule issue of the original post followed by your accusation of me attempting to change subjects is an example of what I referred to earlier as inane. It's not name calling. You threw the first insult and you first sought to change the subject.

This, your "Step #2" change of subject to an unrelated-to-the-topic example of how the City of Richardson actively restricts and prohibits public input in the case of the City Manager's compensation is a mere sampling of the manner in which the citizens are systemically excluded from participating in matters of public business.

But, your change of subject really doesn't make much of a difference. It simply provided another opportunity to expose yet another example of moral depravity with regard to the requirement to conduct public business in a public forum.

mccalpin said...

OK, Nathan declines to answer the latest "yes/no" question, so I'll make it easy for him...the Attorney General's opinion stated the following:
"Consequently, you are advised that a school district may discuss in closed session the raising, lowering, or establishing the salary of an individual employee, provided that the meeting is publicized as required by section 3A and that any closed session is first announced in open meeting as specified in section 2(a)."

The reference to "school district" was only because the Texas Commissioner of Education asked on behalf of a school district; however, the rest of the AG's letter makes it clear that the opinion applies to any governmental body.

This directly contradicts what you said in the Council meeting.

So now a last "yes" or "no" question: when you realized that you had falsely accused the Council of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act by claiming that they had no right to discuss the City Manager's compensation in executive session, did you ever go back to the Council and apologize for the false accusation, or at least acknowledge your error in a public forum, like your website?

"Yes" or "no", please.

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Billy, Billy, Billy. Still don't get it, do you? How does anyone get correspondence degrees in political punditry with a shallow attention span?

What you may be hung up on here is what the 5 minute time limit denied the opportunity to present. Namely, the critical details made more than clear in this thread.

The issues are, #1 a proper opportunity for public input and, with regard to your sidetrack issue, #2 concealment of public information by virtue of no discussion on the motion during the public decision making vote process by the Council.

For any coherent observer, it could not be any more clear that Council members routinely make up their minds in secret based on considerations withheld from the public prior to these no-discussion votes.

Surely Parliamentary Procedure was somewhere in the political science degree plan.

The purpose of the discussion portion of the public vote process is for arguments and considerations to be presented, and deliberation to occur in the light of day. Without it, the public cannot provide informed input, even if the opportunity to do so existed.

Is this your definition of "transparency"? Yes or no?

Nathan Morgan said...

Care to address that City Manager five year employment arrangement that was secretly negotiated in executive session and signed by Bill Keffler and Gary Slagel without public discussion? Or, would that be a #2, changing the subject?

mccalpin said...

Of course it's changing the subject...come on, Nathan, since you are presumably proud of what you wrote, when you realized that you had falsely accused the Council of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act by claiming that they had no right to discuss the City Manager's compensation in executive session, did you ever go back to the Council and apologize for the false accusation, or at least acknowledge your error in a public forum, like your website?

Why can't you answer this simple question?

Bill

Sassy Texan said...

Nice to see Mr McCalpin has once again changed the topic line and then fights with someone else on a miriad of selected issues he deems important, though irrelevant to the topic at hand. As I said before to your misrepresentations and out of context comments......Go with God, Crispy! lol

mccalpin said...

Cheri, the problem is that Nathan misrepresented himself in claiming that he was a County Judge. There was no point in discussing this issue when Nathan claimed falsely that he was a County Judge which would give him some sort of credibility. In fact, he was just an election judge, as thousands of people in Dallas County (including myself) have been.

Furthermore, it is legitimate in a courtroom as well as in a debate to impeach the witness. Nathan was not only mistaken here about his credentials but has made false statements on numerous occasions, statements that were easily proven false as I noted above. Given this abysmal track record at accuracy, the readers here needed to know that everything he says must be taken with a large grain of salt (say, the size of Gibraltar), because he has shown no concern for accuracy in his statements.

He could have responded to me with a simple "Oh, yes, I was an election judge", but he didn't - he chose to insist falsely that he was a County Judge (the highest elected position in the County), in the hopes of confusing the average reader. In addition, true to the code of the "gotcha gang", he then attacked me as childish and inane, even though he had been clearly caught inflating his resume.

What you and Nathan want is for the false statements to be passed over with no objection, because once the false statement is not rebutted, the average reader will tend to think that it must be true...just as you tried to do with your false statement that GASB 34 defined what a balanced budget was -
http://www.marksteger.com/2011/10/what-i-learned-from-lwv-about-city.html

I make no apology for standing up for the decent people of this City and State and refuting the false statements of Internet pundits who think that the people are so stupid that they'll believe anything. GASB 34 does NOT define what a balance budget was, and Nathan Morgan was by no stretch of the imagination a County Judge...and if we can't depend on you to tell the truth about easily verifiable things, how can we trust you on anything else?

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy, I still believe you do a good job as a loyalist for the ruling regime. I am struck by the similarity in talent with the mouthpiece for the Democrats, Florida Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

It does not seem to matter what the public concern might be regarding politics in Richardson, you come up with contrived rendition, claiming your statements are true while others lie. You are so disconnected I feel sorry for you, my friend.

Well, Willy, that's why people refer to you as "Willy", as in William Nilliam or nolens, volens.

There has evolved some real entertainment value in betting on how you will spin things to fit the turmoil in your head. Thanks for the endless laughs. I hear the circus is hiring. You've got quite a convincing act.

mccalpin said...

Nathan, you have made a response that has a "null sematic content". You know what that means, right?

Then you try to impress us with your Latin erudition - a complete failure...nescis nihil, Nathan, et non comprehendis nihil. Stultus es, non potes capire nihil. Habitas in Santo Antonio, tibi precor permittere nos vivere in pace!

You get it, Nathan? You say nothing of any substance then pretend that you know Latin...stop wasting our time, Nathan, and admit your dishonest statements...

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy, very impressive. Another universal axiom in life is that people often resort to personal attacks and name calling in an unfamiliar language to hide their nasty nature. Why am I not surprised?

I recognize and feel your frustration at not being able to justify your position on restricting public input at public meetings. That is precisely why it is invalid...because there is no moral way to justify it.

Denying it does not make it go away.

Please, have a drink on me and get over it.

mccalpin said...

"null sematic content"

hahaha! Late at night, even I can't spell!
"null semantic content"

Bill

mccalpin said...

Nathan, for someone who regularly slanders officeholders with provable falsehoods, insults fellow citizens who point out the truth, and even inflated his resume in front of the Texas Supreme Court, you are remarkably thin-skinned, considering that the very true things I said about you were in a dead language.

The facts are (1) that you have never disputed any of the RumorChecks I wrote about you in which I proved that you made false statements and untrue accusations, and (2) you have never quoted anything I actually said and disproved it.

Instead, you make stuff up...like stating that I have a "position on restricting public input at public meetings". Where did I say that? Go ahead, Nathan, we are all waiting...where did I say that I had any position at all on the subject? No where. That's right, Nathan, you made it up.

Want to prove me wrong? Then show the people here where I said it...come on, Nathan, that shouldn't be hard, should it?

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy,

People often make comments that do not deserve the dignity of a response. What can I say? You consistently accuse others of the things you do yourself.

You have shown yourself clever enough to plausibly misrepresent statements of others while construing your debate position in ways that contradict. You consistently present an argument to the contrary, usually with flimsy pretence.

You may take this as a complement when I say you do it well enough to trick others into joining your line of thought.

There is little anyone can do to quiet the chronicling of these rants on your web site. My view is that it goes a long way toward explaining why you are known as "Willy". No response is necessary to prove that point.

mccalpin said...

So, Nathan, do I understand you to say by your complete lack of response that
1. you don't deny that you slander officeholders with provable falsehoods,
2. you don't deny that you insult fellow citizens who point out the truth,
and
3. you even inflated your resume in front of the Texas Supreme Court?

I am more than happy to continue pointing out the specifics of your atrocious behavior for the benefit of the free people of Richardson...

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy,

Are you daft? I am continually amused by your baseless personal attacks in a desperate attempt to promote your immoral attitude toward public service.

Your attempt to divert focus off misbehavior of public officials to me, a common citizen, smacks of cronyism. I am struggling to figure out just what you get out of behaving so irrationally toward concerned members of the community.

Well, my little Munchkin Mayor, my response to your petty accusations and comments remains indignant. Your comments dip below even your standard level of intellectual dishonesty.

mccalpin said...

Nathan, please name one "baseless personal attack" I have leveled against you...really, just name ONE...well, let's look at what I've said about you above...

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I pointed out that you weren't a County Judge? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I pointed out that you wrongly accused Council member Steve Mitchell of violating the Council's Code of Ethics? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I corrected your misstatement that the Charter forbids refinancing debt? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I corrected you on your accusation that John Murphy violated State law to be on Council and President of the NCTCOG at the same time? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I pointed out that you were wrong to accuse the Council of violating State law in discussing the City Manager's compensation in executive session? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I pointed out that your accusation was wrong when you accused the Council of violating 21.02 of the Charter when they advertised for bids before the budget was passed? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I corrected your editorial that a report stated that Richardson wasn't even in the top 200 performing cities (economically, that is)? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I pointed out that you were wrong to say that the office building at the northeast corner of Belt Line and Central was in foreclosure? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baselines personal attack even to point out that your interpretation of State law in terms of "direct" election of the mayor was likely wrong because you didn't research the origin of the language of the law? Nope, just a statement of fact.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I pointed out that you regularly slander officeholders with provable falsehoods? Nope, the long list of statements above prove that this is true.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I said that you insult fellow citizens who point out the truth? Nope, your repeated insults to me are ample proof that you do this.

Was I making a baseless personal attack when I pointed out that you had inflated your resume in front of the Texas Supreme Court? Nope, and as soon as you're ready, I'll be delighted to discuss it with everyone here.

Nathan, haven't you figure out yet that everyone reading Mark's blog realizes that you have made mistake after mistake and have failed to even ONCE prove any RumorCheck on you to be wrong?

You have failed to prove ANY misbehavior on the part of public officials, and yet are desperate for readers not to realize your own misbehavior...but no problem...I am here for the long run, and I will continue to remind the decent people of Richardson of all the errors and mistakes and false accusations that you have made, until you finally realize that San Antonio is your new home...

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy,

Here you are again, blowing your smoke screen. There is no answer to your questions because you have an insatiable appetite for misrepresentation and contradiction.

I get a great deal of free entertainment from your fantasies, even if they do contain silly personal attacks against me.

Your immorality cannot be cured when lies come so freely to your tongue. There is no need to respond to someone so out of balance.

mccalpin said...

I see that answered none of my questions...why don't you just admit that you were wrong on each of the items I pointed out? The truth is that you make countless personal attacks against people who are innocent of all your charges, and you lack the inherent moral courage to admit your errors...no matter, as this thread will exist for years as clear testimony to your willingness to misstate the facts and refuse to apologize for same...

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy,

How much longer are you going to sing the blues about not getting answers to your stupid questions? I'd like to know because ticket sales to your comedy act are selling like hotcakes and I'm trying to project income for the second show. Good job on punching up your stories with wild accusations. That's the kind of talent the fans appreciate.

mccalpin said...

Nathan, I'll keep this up so long as you are in complete denial. "wild accusations"? Name even one!

No, we all know what will happen...you'll respond, "Willy, I don't need to dignify your stupid comments with a response."...which everyone will read as "I [Nathan] can't defend the false statements I've made, so I'll keep insulting McCalpin, hoping that he'll go away."

I'm still here in Richardson, Nathan, and you're not...and everyone knows it...

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy,

You are a blow hard. Your dishonesty has sullied your reputation. Although amused, nobody cares what you have to say because they know the truth. No matter how much steam you vent here, you cannot satisfy your need for attention. These wild accusations are meaningless. And your questions equally inane.

mccalpin said...

On November 11, 2011, Nathan Morgan claimed on his website that (1) 5 of the 7 Richardson Council members lived on the west side of Central Expressway, and (2) that the Richardson Coalition spent an "unprecedented" amount of money on the campaign.

Both statements are false.

Please see http://www.rumorcheck.org/5of7.html for the proof...

Bill

Nathan Morgan said...

Willy,

You lie.