Monday, November 20, 2023

Council Recap: Bob and Lynn Townsend Bridge

Source: DALL-E

At the November 13, 2023, Richardson City Council meeting, the Council approved a resolution naming a new park "Twin Rivers Park" and naming the bridge there "Bob and Lynn Townsend Bridge." The vote was 7-0. An uncontroversial action. So why did it feel like some people were left feeling more than a little frustrated, if not with the result, then at least with the process, or lack of one? And why did Mayor Bob Dubey feel a need to apologize?

Some might blame Councilmember Dan Barrios, who wanted to slow things down, asking that the Council first develop a policy for naming things. Some might blame Councilmember Ken Hutchenrider, who adamantly opposed having a policy. And some might blame Mayor Dubey, who himself diverted the discussion away from the uncontroversial park names and towards the unexpected topic of bridge and gazebo naming, which wasn't on the agenda. I blame the way Richardson City Council meetings are run. And that's on the Mayor.

During the recent election campaign in which Mayor Dubey was elected, I wrote:

[To the DMN, Bob] Dubey said "[Mayor Paul] Voelker’s 'micromanagement from the top down' has deterred some council members and residents from speaking at council meetings." Then, in a Facebook post, Dubey said, "I vow to show each city council person and city staff member respect and let their voices be heard.
Source: The Wheel.

So what went wrong on the way to naming the "Bob and Lynn Townsend Bridge"? It wasn't in letting councilmembers' voices be heard. Here's how Mayor Dubey described what happened last week. "Let me if I could, maybe clarify something. I think we're, it's somatic [sic] what we're saying in, I don't think most of you are saying, you don't want guidelines, but you maybe want a procedure and I think what we asked staff to do last time was to bring to us a list of things that could be named. That's what I remember."

Mayor Dubey is relying on his memory instead of a written record. No one wrote down any action items from the June 6th meeting. Mayor Dubey remembers City Manager Don Magner being asked to put together a list of park amenities for naming consideration. And he was. But Magner was asked for more than that. Councilmember Jennifer Justice said, "Next week, I'm fine moving forward with the bridge without a policy if [Magner] can still explore policy and we can all say yay or nay whatever."

After further repetitive discussion, Justice said, "We're spinning our wheels at this point." That's when Mayor Dubey should have wrapped things up and summarized what the next steps would be. But Dubey only said to Magner, "All right. You got your marching orders, sir." What marching orders were those? Mayor Dubey remembers one thing. Justice remembers something more. Obviously Magner remembers something else again. That led to Magner coming back on June 13th with neither a proposed policy nor an inventory of park amenities that could be named. Maybe that's what resulted in some discontent for those who wanted more than just a resolution naming a bridge, which is all we got at the November 13th meeting.

Any basic guide to running effective meetings covers recording action items. Advice is given like, "Summarize assignments at the conclusion of the discussion, specifying who is to do what by when." This is the most basic stuff of running meetings. But in this case, the Mayor failed. And he failed to ask the City Manager (who was being given an action item) or the City Secretary (who was responsible for the minutes that should contain action items) to bail him out. Running meetings is harder than it looks.

In that same blog post that I quoted from above, I warned:

Someone who knows Robert's Rules of Order could run rings around this Council. If they don't use the powers they have on that dais, that's on them, not on the mayor, whoever he is. They are docile. I like both a take-charge mayor AND a take-charge council.

Source: The Wheel.

Unfortunately, Richardson has neither. Leaving a vacuum. And dropped balls. I expected better, especially from a former kids' football coach.

"Bob and Lynn's bridge stands.
'Twin Rivers Park' takes its name.
Discontent lingers."
—h/t ChatGPT

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