Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Christmas Goose and an Attack on an Innocent Electric Vehicle

Last night’s “News Connection” debate was attended by approximately 100 people—a good number sporting “NFL” T-Shirts and waving “VOTE NFL” mini-signs. Candidate Gerald Robinson, as usual, was resplendent in yet another, green tie. [Editor’s note: The green tie is to remind voters that despite his actions and words, he is in fact, the environmental candidate. Out of respect for that commitment, we will heretofore, add to his environmental credibility by referencing to him with GREEN INK.]

[Editor’s note: There will be lots of editor’s notes in this posting.]

Bob Weir conducted the debate in an orderly and respectful manner. Other than the antics of one of Mayor Smith’s larger than life supporters on the front row (who was continually shushed by a soon to be retiring Councilwoman), the crowd was behaved and responded by politely clapping after their respective candidates answered each question.

Here’s a summary of the debate highlights:

In response to a question about the three main issues over the next three years, Melissa Northern spoke about the need for vision combined with the responsibility to listen to the residents. Al Filidoro stated that in their encounters with the public while campaigning they’ve been asked over and over about gas drilling. He said that the residents think it’s the key issue. He also said that the Town’s image needs to be addressed as we’ve been ridiculed on national TV as well as by the local media. Steve Lyda stated that this year’s Council had focused on small things, but that he wants the next Council to focus on big things—primarily a re-look at the O&G ordinance. Mr. Robinson questioned why the Town is spending so much on attorney’s fees. He stated that he wants a safe environment. Bryan Webb reiterated Mr. Robinson’s statements.

The answers to the next question, “Given the economic downturn, do you favor an increase in taxes or a reduction in services?”, provided nothing memorable other than Mr. Robinson, once again, stating his concern about going “overboard” on legal fees. He also said that it scares him regarding all the “bad-mouthing” that is going on related to mixed-use.

The candidates were then asked about Riverwalk—that despite being in bankruptcy, what should be done to ensure the most advantages for residents. Mr. Robinson again expressed his support for mixed use.

The next question asked about the candidate’s vision for the next decade and beyond. Mr. Lyda said that Flower Mound should remain the “little piece of paradise” that caused him to move here years ago. Mr. Filidoro said that gas drilling is here to stay, but that we need to work on the ordinance. Ms. Northern said her desire was that Flower Mound be known for its healthy lifestyle. Mr. Robinson again mentioned that mixed-use will be the driver for growth. He mentioned attorney’s fees. Again. Mr. Webb mentioned a resurgence of growth.

The next question [Editor’s Note: Now’s when it gets interesting] asked what the most important quality of a public servant. Ms. Northern responded that it was respect for our citizens. She also read a quote from 2004, when Ms. Smith first ran for mayor. Ms. Smith questioned the now-former mayor’s ethics and stated that “The mayor is showing signs of being in office too long.”

Mr. Filidoro said the most important quality was trustworthiness. He said that over 650 residents came to Town Hall on January 21st and over 80 spoke against the CCF, but the current Council majority didn’t listen and in fact, ridiculed them. He said that the Council majority still questions the 6,000 petition signers. He said that he had heard them and that they must be treated with respect.

He also said that a public servant should not embarrass the town. He said that Mike Huckabee, on his national radio show, had mentioned the embarrassing incident with the mayor. His desire is for national figures to talk about great things in Flower Mound, not indiscretions. He concluded by saying that none of the NFL holds gas leases and will not have conflicts of interest when such issues come in front of Council.

Mr. Robinson said that the most important quality was leadership. He agreed that we have a negative image but that he was not going to point fingers for the reason. Mr. Webb’s response was that the Council had received the petition and that the voters should have their say. He said that 5,600 people should not be allowed to make the law. He stated that would be wrong.

Ms. Smith stated that she was “duly tried” and they found “no guilt.” She asked why does this keep rising? She said that she touched the backside of the officer and on January 21st she admitted it and apologized for it. She continued that “if that’s not integrity, then I dare you to come up here and say the same.” And finally, she questioned why this ever got out of a closed, sealed record and that she’d love to give us her opinion.

[Editor’s note: I’m speechless over that one.]

The next question asked if when phase one of Morris/Gerault is complete would you be in favor of suspending phase two?

In a nutshell, the NFL candidates said that phase two likely isn’t needed considering what is happening with Riverwalk. Their opponents all said that phase two should proceed. Mr. Robinson stated that he believes that Riverwalk will be “extremely viable and a jewel of our town.” Mr. Webb commented that “phase two needs to follow phase one and that, “it may not be popular—sorry.”

The next question asked where waste water from gas drilling is dumped.

Mr. Robinson expressed his support for the CCF because it’s the “environmentally safe way to go.” Mr. Webb and Ms. Smith also stated their support for the CCF.

Ms. Northern questioned the CCF by asking if it’s right to move our trash to someone else and that we needed to look at on-site recycling. Mr. Lyda reminded the audience that we were firmly against salt water injection wells and so why would we allow something similar above ground. Mr. Filidoro asked why don’t we require recycling? He stated that last year Williams promised that they’d never put a high pressure injection well in Flower Mound and that he had believed them. He said that they then went and proposed one in Argyle; just across the Flower Mound border. He concluded by saying that our water table doesn’t know where the border is.

The candidates were next asked about what they’d like to see in the next Town Charter review. Mr. Lyda said “term limits” and that boards and commissions should be utilized more. Mr. Webb said that we should take a look at quasi-judicial boards and take a harder look at the selection process.

Ms. Smith wants another Council member so that the mayor could also vote. She also wants a Code of Conduct and that in fact, she and Councilwoman Levenick had requested one in November, but alleged that Mr. Filidoro had quashed it knowing that the “butt tapping” incident would blow up soon.

Ms. Northern stated that legal needed to be part of any reviews. Mr. Filidoro confirmed that in fact, he did not stand behind that police officer, he did not pinch him, and that he didn’t know anything about it until the investigation had been completed. Mr. Robinson said he would never write a letter that was negative towards another Councilmember.

Editor’s Note: Apparently, Mr. Robinson has not checked his mailbox lately. See HERE, HERE, HERE.

The next question asked that with our strong O&G ordinance, what will you do to ensure that the O&G Board will not grant so many variances? Mr. Filidoro questioned that we have the strongest O&G ordinance considering the tremendous number of variances that are granted. He wants to address the variances in a complete review of the ordinance. Mr. Robinson stated that the current 1,000 foot setback are in line with “Drill Right” Texas recommendations and he added that if a variance was requested for less than 1,000 feet from a residence, homeowners—even one—should be able to say “no.” Ms. Smith commented that they had removed two individuals from the O&G Board this year and that she had sent them for training. She also said that potential O&G Board members are asked if they have a gas lease.

[Editor’s Note: But apparently, the fact that Ms. Smith and Candidates Robinson and Webb have gas leases is irrelevant.]

Mr. Lyda said that the Council should appoint members that do not have a bias. He also said that we needed an independent Town Council, despite the letter from Keystone Exploration supporting the NFL’s opposition. Read that letter HERE. Ms. Northern added that the O&G Board should receive training, but that it be unbiased. Mr. Webb responded to the question by saying that he had “lost his thought.”

Debate participants were then asked to relate the community service that they were most proud of. Everyone listed numerous boards, commissions and volunteer services, but two responses stood out:

Ms. Smith derided the NFL for riding around in the “NFL Express.” She proudly stated that she walks the Town parks and trails. She added that she had "selfishly" served the Town. [Editor's note: I'm sure that comment was just a mistake--everone misspeaks now and then.] Mr. Webb said he was most proud of his brother’s service in an organization that honors fallen military members. [Editor's note: While admirable, how is that relevant to his public service?]

The next question asked for their thoughts on the role that the Texas Railroad Commission plays in the current gas drilling debate. Ms. Northern expressed her concern that despite many thousands of wells being added, there are no additional resources allocated for oversight. Mr. Filidoro explained that the TRRC has acknowledged that their current regulations do not address urban gas drilling.

Mr. Robinson expressed a concern that if we get “over-aggressive”, then we could lose our rights, as a municipality, to regulate. Mr. Lyda commented that we have to make sure that our local control isn’t affected by the state and commented that Ms. Northern had been instrumental in this. Mr. Webb agreed with the concern about state control and offered that Ms. Smith, too, had fought against this. He also said that he supported variances “when they made sense.” Ms. Smith stated that our O&G ordinance is 3 ½ times stronger than what the TRRC requires, but then she stated that she agreed that they should have separate oil and gas regulations.

The final question of the night was if they believed we should roll over to unwanted growth to avoid lawsuits.

Mr. Filidoro stated that if you’re in the business of making laws you should not be afraid of lawsuits. He stated that our legal fees had actually gone down—from 2.9% to 1.3%. He also said that they could be eliminated altogether, but we’d have to just ask them how much they want and give it to them. He explained that we cannot do that as we have an obligation to protect the Town.

Mr. Robinson explained that he was a Marine and that he was trained to be “judicious” when he fought. He said that 1.9% is too much. He said he wasn’t in favor of letting people get their way, but if not necessary, he’d rather spend on keeping our streets safe. Mr. Lyda reminded Mr. Robinson that we have a sales tax to keep our streets safe. He said that the Town attorney will not lead us into unnecessary litigation. He then explained that the eminent domain litigation is a record case and not insignificant.

Mr. Webb stated that such litigation was not a good use of our tax dollars. Ms. Smith denied that we had rolled over. Ms. Northern commented that we have to protect our municipal authority and that if we allow people to come in and seize the Town’s property, then what’s next?

Each candidate was then given time to make a concluding statement.

Ms. Northern promised to do what’s right, not bow down to another entity, and to never lose site that it is the Town residents that she serves.

Ms. Smith said she challenged the NFL’s “new direction” as it sounds like the recent national election which promised change. She said that Flower Mound is a healthy place and reminded everyone that she walks and that no one wonders about where the garbage trucks take our trash. She then concluded that her opponent would make 2499 a toll road. She said that Ms. Northern had stated that at the Bridlewood debate.

Mr. Webb reminded the audience that at the beginning of the debate he had said that he hoped that he would make it easy to determine whether he or Mr. Lyda should receive their vote.

[Editor’s Note: He did.]

Mr. Lyda spoke of his enjoyment in campaigning with Ms. Northern and Mr. Filidoro. He said that he believes that the election of Ms. Northern will help to restore integrity to the office of mayor. He concluded with the quote of the night by saying that “I think that if Jody Smith is elected for two more years, Williams will be getting their Christmas goose early this year.”

Mr. Robinson reminded everyone that he is positive and he doesn’t believe in leadership through litigation. He said that he lives by the Rotarian 4-way test. Is it the truth? Is it fair? Does it build goodwill? Is it beneficial to all? He then proceeded to say that Ms. Northern’s suggestion to turn 2499 into a toll road was a “dumb idea.”

Mr. Filidoro commented that he must not have been at the same debate, because what Ms. Northern had said was that money for the expansion of 2499 was coming from things like the 121 toll road. [Editor's note: Ms. Northern's comments were clarified at the Bridlewood debate--she misspoke and then she immediately corrected it. Hey..everyone does it, right? (Search this post for "selfishly."]

Mr. Filidoro then said that there had been lots of slams by the opposition and many had been addressed by him. He said however, that the lowest slam of all was against the “NFL Express.” He questioned (with a straight face), why would anyone slam an innocent electric vehicle.

[Editor's Note: Kudos to Mr. Weir for conducting a debate that was informative and worthwhile. My only suggestion would be that in future debates, assaults on innocent, inanimate objects (that are unable to defend themselves), be off-limits. Golf carts deserve our respect, too.]


Anonymous said...

Thanks, I really enjoyed your review and commentary. I relived all the laughs from last night. More importantly, I came away comforted by the fact that Melissa Northern will be an excellent Mayor. I'm ready for a change.

Anonymous said...

Great recap. I agree that Melissa will be a terrific mayor. She (as well as Al and Steve) did a terrific job last night.

Ladd Biro said...

Wow, Beckie...what a great job you did on this. Must've taken a tremendous amount of time. I know everybody appreciates this.

Anonymous said...

Now we're finding out that Jody and crew spent last night putting signs up all over Town that say that Melissa wants to turn 2499 into a toll road.

That is a lie and anyone that has anything to do with those signs is a liar.

Anonymous said...

Jody agreed to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. Here's the link with her signature:,%20Jody%20Code%20of%20Fair%20Campaign%20Practices.pdf

In particular, she agreed that she would conduct her campaign openly and publicly and limit attacks on her opponent to legitimate challenges to her opponent's record and stated positions.

She also promised to avoid using campaign materials that misrepresent, distort, or otherwise falsify the facts.

The 2499 toll road signs are beyond unethical and show just how desperate she has become.

Anonymous said...

Anyone up for some sign stealing?

Anonymous said...

No anonymous 2:18, NFL supporters don't steal signs. They don't tear them down either.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Anon 2:18 PM, IP addresses aren't _completely_ anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Love the green. Isn't that what they call "green-washing"??

Anonymous said...

I believe Jody Smith had it right when she said she has worked "selfishly" as mayor.

She's certainly worked very hard for that mailbox money from Williams.

Brenda said...

Someone needs to file an ethics complaint immediately. Trust me, Jody's group would do it in a heartbeat and have almost every election since she first ran.

Anonymous said...

It was so nice to see Patsy Mizeur {Misery] at the debate. But where was Jan Balekian [Company]?
I thought that Misery loves Company!