Last login: Friday, January 1, 2010
Thank you Matt & Legion for your additional evidence and information. Why wasn't this transaction of public city business done aboveboard? The distortions of the Charter from the city attorney & Mr. Halepaska are very disturbing. Section 5 of the Charter is quite clear and self-explanatory and does not require interpretation by a lawyer.
Mr. Halepeska noted several times that the city has known about the sewer project for years and admitted that the purchase of land had been in the two prior city budgets. So Mr. Halepeska is admitting that the budget amendment that passed is in violation of the Charter but that it's OK since that is how the City Council has handled budget amendments in the past. He is saying in essence that "since we broke the law in the past it's OK to do it now". And Polasek, Rangel & Armstrong go along with this line of reasoning. I have never before witnessed such flagrant and open violation of the law by elected public officials. This is a question of ethics. People who ignore the law at their convenience are not fit for public office.
The unseemly rush to conclude this purchase in spite of more cost effective condemnation alternatives coupled with the absence of the traditional public input process makes me highly suspicious of the whole transaction. People who exhibit demonstratively questionable ethics draw suspicion to themselves. Just where do they draw the line? Are they capable of seeing the line?
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Quick review of th facts:1) The mayor refuses to enter into negotiations with the zoo over the property in question because Mr. McGarrah has been talking to the zoo.2) Three months later (June) Mr. McGarrah receives loan funding & purchases the property.3) Five months later (November) the City Attorney begins negotiations with Mr. McGarrah.4) In early December the City Council is presented with a contract purchasing the property at three times its appraised value.5) Rather than refusing the exorbitant price and proceed with normal condemnation proceedings the mayor insists that the City Council accept the contract. Normal condemnation proceedings would have allowed the city immediate access to the property. The average paid under condemnation is 10% to 15% over appraised value or purchase value, whichever is higher. The cost to the City for process would be between $10,000 to $20,000.00. Condemnation proceedings were estimated to save the city at least $165,000.006) Council members object to the price but are overridden by the mayor.7) Council votes to purchase the property.8) Council is made aware that the proposed funding of the contract clearly violates the City Charter.9) Councilmen Halapaska and Polasak state that this is how the City has always funded projects of this nature this way and with councilman Rangel & Mayor Armstrong vote to fund the project despite the violation of the City Charter. Councilman Truman withholds his vote stating that the entire funding process is an illegal violation of the Charter.
To add insult to injury, the City Manager does not arrange the normal town hall meetings with the local residents. These meeting traditionally allow city staff to explain the proposed project and address concerns of the local residents. Why did they not follow this procedure? Possibly:
1) Fear of opposition to the program well in advance of the project might force a compromise and a different location.2) A feeling on the part of the mayor and certain council members that they "know what's best for Victoria".3) A complete lack of understanding in the democratic system of government.4) Lack of respect for the residents of the south side of Victoria.
The entire process was tainted and has damaged the credibility of the majority of this City Council.
Dear Mr. Westpfal:
The tone and manner of your article do not appear to come from the mind of an objective observer. For you to call the request for observance of the City Charter "cheap parliamentary tricks" is astounding.
You derisive comments concerning Mr. Truman are particularly interesting. You make the statement that: "I cannot imagine he has actually consulted with every member of his constituency" as a proof that he is not representing his constituency. There is not a single elected official in this country, or indeed the entire world, that meets your standard. In point of fact, the south-side council members hosted a citizen's form to receive input from their constituents. By city standards the forum was well attended. (Fifty people is a significant turnout for Victoria; ask anyone on the city staff). South-side community and religious leaders as well as scores of concerned citizens attended the event and, with the exception of the owner of the land in question, were united in their opposition. They clearly understood the costs involved and are willing to bear them. Now, are the rest of us willing to show them the same respect that we ourselves demand?
Your condescending attitude toward Mr. Solis is highly inappropriate. Quote: ". . but (he) lacks both depth of political understanding and the necessity for government to actually get about the business of governance". Who are you to make such a judgment? Certainly nothing in your article indicate such intellectual superiority. And your further fulminations are even more gratuitous: "The dangers of acting solely as a mirror for your constituents' complaints and not as a steward for their interests is a lesson he must learn". e.g. now that you have listened to the concerns your constituents you must "do the right thing" even if your constituents object. That is precisely how elitists world wide have ruled through socialism and fascism.
It would appear to me that you have a personal grudge against Mr. Hagan. Your article makes several derogatory references to him and then you ground your objections to him by saying: "he now argues that the plant . . . is unacceptable because he would not personally want to live next to one himself, and he must respect the will of the people". You find this objectionable? Of all the north-side council members only Mr. Hagan showed respect for the south-side citizens by attending the citizen's form. You attempt to make him look foolish for not not being a knee-jerk conservative who's only concern is the bottom line, the final price. Maybe Mr. Hagan believes that respect and compassion should have a large part to play in the final decision.
You refer several times to hidden agendas and motives as a driving force behind the opposition of Hagan, Solis and Truman. It brings to mind a line from Hamlet: "the lady doth protest too much, methinks".
If you read the rest of Mr. Truman's quote you will note that he says that the City has known about the need for a new plant for the last five years! What in the world has the City been doing these five years? This so called "emergency" has been caused by gross incompetence on the part of the City Manager: he failed to put funding for the purchase in the current budget. Prior budgets had it but not this one. We cannot violate the City Charter just to cover one man's mistake. The Charter serves as the constitution of the City of Victoria. Would you be this careless in your attitude if this involved the U.S. Constitution? I would hope not but you ARE asking the City Council to do exactly that with our City Charter. I would suggest that you go back to the news article and read, really read, the quote from the Charter. It was obviously written to prevent the financial shenanigans we are currently facing. I congratulate those council members who have stood up for the Charter and the rule of law and sincerely hope that the rest of the City Council will consider the implications of their actions if they proceed by ignoring the Charter.
This is not just a question of money. Your City Council awards contracts to higher bidders (ignoring for lower bids) even though it costs the City of Victoria a lot more money. They do it for the overall good of the city as they perceive it.
This sewer plant has been crammed down the throat of the southern half of the city without their input and completely ignoring their very real concerns. If this city has the money to burn when awarding contracts it sure as heck ought to have the money to spend to respect the wishes of south Victoria.
The quote from the City Charter says it all.
"The City Council, in case of grave public necessity, may amend the original budget to authorize emergency expenditures to meet unusual and unforeseen conditions which could not by reasonable diligence, thought and attention have been included in the original budget."
In no way does this issue qualify as an emergency or unforseen.
According to Mr. Polasek, enforcing the City Charter is a "stalling tactic". I wonder how he would feel if Congress took the same liberties with the U.S. Constitution that he is taking with the City Charter.
The question Mr. Polasek and the other council members should be asking themselves is WHY this purchase was not in this year's budget? It was in the budget in prior years (undeniable proof that this issue does not qualify as unforeseen). The City Manager failed to budget the purchase and he should be held accountable. He did not exercise (again quoting the Charter) "reasonable diligence, thought and attention"
No matter if you are for or against the proposed site, a violation of the City Charter can not be allowed. This rush to complete the transaction this year regardless of the cost or consequences raises a great doubt in my mind. I agree with Mr. Truman. The City Charter was designed precisely to prevent such an occurrence as we now face. Ask yourself: why?
You're avoiding the issues. The budget amendment as presented to Council violates the City Charter. No if, ands or buts. Now if that doesn't mean anything to you, then nothing of our constitutional form of government will. All you talk about is smell. The bottom line is that the voters Joe Truman represents object to the plant at that particular location. We are a Republic. We were designed to be a Republic to prevent dictatorship of the majority over the minority. Why do you think Delaware has the same number of U.S. senators as Texas? Our founding fathers went out of their way to protect minority interests. The debate on the sewer plant represents a healthy government with issues openly discussed. No back-room politics, no smoke-filled rooms. The People openly debating the issues so that the best possible decision will be made. If the People are not allowed to participate in the government, then they will be alienated by it.
Fifty people at a is a very large number. Ask any member of city staff. Even the nuns at the Incarnate Word convent oppose the proposed site because then believe it is a health hazard and runs roughshod over the citizens in that portion of the south side of Victoria.
And did you read the quotation from the City Charter? This issue in no way qualifies as a "grave emergency". The Charter is the constitution of the City of Victoria. The City Council has no more right to ignore the Charter than Congress the U.S. Constitution.
Joe Truman is defending the desires of his constituents as well as insisting that the City Council abide by the law. In this he is fulfilling his oath of office and the responsibilities of representing the desires of the people he represents. As for your comment that he appears to be "pandering to a certain segment of the voting population"; that comment is reprehensible with racist overtones. Shame on you! What other reasons do you have to make a statement like that?
You may think that the old boys method of running roughshod over segments of the population is the way to go but I'm here to tell you that we live in a representative democracy. Joe Truman is doing the job he was elected to do and I commend him.
MUST READING: Here is the section in the City Charter that Mr. Truman was referring to (from victoriatx.org)
"The City Council in case of grave public necessity may amend the original budget to authorize emergency expenditures to meet unusual and unforeseen conditions which could not by reasonable diligence, thought and attention have been included in the original budget".
This means that the City Manager and the City Attorney have not exercised reasonable diligence, thought and attention. This was not an unforeseen expenditure. They say that they have been planning it for five years. Why in the world are we paying them over $100,000.00 a year salaries of our tax money if they don't even know the City Charter? The City Council needs to review their job performance and hire people who know what they are doing.
With all due respect to the editorial staff, I think they would do well to remember that we live in a democracy. The issue is not the location of the plant but the lack of public input. One of the major complaints against our city government is that it does not listen to or communicate with the citizens of Victoria. The editors should be championing public discourse, not opposing it.