Monday, November 29, 2010

Richardson Trash Talk: Pointing Fingers

The neighborhood group got the agreement it wanted with the city and the water district. So why do the neighbors still seem so unhappy? Perhaps a case of buyer's remorse? Perhaps because they didn't get everything they hoped for? Perhaps because they didn't get a legally binding agreement? Perhaps because they misunderstood who they were dealing with? Perhaps a little bit of all of these.

After the jump, the latest trash talk from Richardson regarding the renovation and expansion of the Lookout Drive trash transfer station.

When we last checked on this story, it looked like everyone was happy. The neighbors got their memorandum of understanding, the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) got its permit, and the Richardson City Council got peace. But now the neighbors (or the vocal ones, anyway) represented by the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (NPAR) are trash-talking the NTMWD.

"Because the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) has managed to build a buffer between it and the people it serves, the negotiation was not easy. City staff acted as an intermediary throughout the entire process because the District was apparently not willing to negotiate directly with citizens. ...

"As long as the NTMWD continues to live in the shadowy world of unaccountability, we are in danger. As long as member cities are all too willing to jump at the NTMWD beck and call, we the citizens who pay the bills will not be well served. ...

"Does it really serve us well to have our City/ NTMWD representatives not directly beholden to the citizens they serve? In the forum last week they weren’t even present!"

There is either a misunderstanding or at least a basic disagreement about the role and function of the NTMWD. The NTMWD didn't "build a buffer between it and the people it serves." The State of Texas did that, and did it knowingly, by how it set up the NTMWD at the request of its member cities. The NTMWD member cities make up the board of directors of NTMWD. Under their direction, the NTMWD serves its member cities who, in turn, serve the people who live in them. Any notion that the NTMWD is, or should be, some kind of popular democracy is simplistic thinking.

If people have a gripe about the city water supply or solid waste disposal, they should take it up with their city staff and city council. That's who they pay their taxes to. That's who they pay their water bill to. That's who they pay their trash collection bill to. They should take their complaints to the people who collect their taxes and fees.

In turn, the city's representatives on the NTMWD board of directors (for Richardson, that's Ken Bell and John Sweeden) should then carry the city's careabouts and complaints to the NTMWD board. In turn, the NTMWD itself should follow the direction of its board of directors.

The NTMWD is doing the right thing by *not* getting in the middle of a dispute between a neighborhood and its city council. Giving the NTMWD the power to decide who to listen to (and who to ignore), would be rife with potential abuse. Instead, if the residents' interests are not being addressed by the NTMWD, the people ought to petition their city council to appoint more effective and more satisfactory representatives. If the city council is unresponsive to that request, the people ought to vote in new city council members. The NTMWD is a creature of its member cities. If the NTMWD isn't doing what's right, look to its member cities for the remedy.

No comments: