Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Outsiders

There was a recent article in a local paper that spoke of several area residents who were trying to get out of the Aubrey Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).  They were apparently trying to get a nearby city to allow them into their ETJ because of concerns with the Aubrey subdivision regulations.  The article went on to discuss how these ETJ members were treated at an Aubrey City Council meeting.  They stated that they were being “cursed” at and called “outsiders” by Aubrey citizens.  I was at this meeting, but was unable to hear any of these insults from my seat on council.  However, the way this meeting was orchestrated, it certainly added to the divide in our community. 

This was not the first time I had heard the term “outsider”, I have been called an “outsider” by some here in Aubrey.  The person who referred to me in this manner was the wife of a councilman who I thought prided himself as being not being part of the “insiders”.  However, I guess that line is blurrier than I thought.  When I ran for office, I ran on the platform of not being an “insider”.  One of the reasons for that is that the term reeks of the establishment, and “we’re going to do things the way we’ve always done things, even if it’s wrong”, and “don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up”.  This is not a group that I want to be a part of.    

There were two groups of people who showed up to that meeting.  The “insiders” and the “outsiders”, and one of these groups were not sure what they were there for, this group of course was the “insiders”.  They were apparently made to believe that we were on the verge of selling the municipal water system and the EJT members were there to make sure that happened.  This issue was discussed and discarded several months prior and was not an item on this agenda.  There was an item to approve an over 5 million dollar bond package, but the option of selling the system was not on the table. 

Why would rumors be spread about the intent of this vote?  It’s a simple deceptive political strategy called wagging the dog, or a diversion from the real problem.  It was portrayed to the “insiders” that the “outsiders” (ETJ members) were at the meeting to support the sale of the city’s water system; however, they were really there to voice their displeasure over the subdivision ordinance.  Most of those in the ETJ had no idea we were even taking action on the water bond, and this action has no effect on them.  Therefore, most of them had no interest in this item, they were there to discuss their property rights.

Normally, all of the public comments were taken at the beginning of the meeting.  However, in this meeting, all of the “insiders” were allowed to speak at the beginning.  However, the meeting was broken up into two sessions.  After all of the “insiders” got to speak on the false water crisis, we voted on the water bond.  However, before the ETJ members were allowed to speak, there was a long intermission.  Initially, they were told that they could elect a couple of ETJ members to speak for the group, but all of the members would not be allowed to speak.  However, the ETJ members were insistent and were eventually allowed to speak.  By the time they got to speak it was very late in the evening and all of “insiders” had left, which the plan all along. 

The real reason that the members of the ETJ showed up to this meeting was that Aubrey passed an overreaching subdivision ordinance.  You see Aubrey is a general law city, and has extremely limited authority in the ETJ.  However, the subdivision ordinance, which I do not support, is from a home rule city, which has more authority in the ETJ.  Therefore, the city gave themselves authority that they legally did not have.  Once, the folks in the ETJ realized this, they of course were upset.  You see, the city of Aubrey was trying to impose an ordinance on people who have no input on what happens in the city government.  It is a situation of regulation without representation. 

The ETJ members got organized and had a large meeting to discuss this ordinance, and at the last minute, I was an invited guest speaker.  However, the mayor of Aubrey showed up uninvited and was asked to leave.  This upset her, and was what prompted the manner in which the previously referred to meeting was laid out.  To put it simply, she was upset because she was thrown out of the ETJ member’s private meeting, and therefore retaliated against the people in the ETJ during the city’s public meeting.  She lied to the “insiders”, and then organized the meeting to cover the lie.  Unfortunately, the “insiders” took the bait, hook, line and sinker. 

Since the outcry over the subdivision ordinance, there has been some modification to make it less impactful.  There has been some public statements from councilmembers that they knew that there would have to be changes to the ordinance.  They said that we “had” to get something in place, and we would make modifications later.  I do not recall us having that discussion, perhaps it was at a meeting that I was not in attendance.  However, I doubt that any of the other members of council or the mayor had a clue that they were doing anything illegal, and probably don’t really know the difference between a general law city and a home rule city, they were just telling another lie to cover their ignorance. 

I was not at the meeting that the subdivision ordinance was passed.  I had some questions regarding the overreach, but was out of town.  From listening to the recording, there was very little discussion on this item before the vote.  Certainly there was no mention of anything that would lead you to believe that we “had to pass something” immediately.  There was also no discussion that would lead you to believe that anyone felt that we would need to roll back portions of the ordinance.  So why would they lie about this?  The ETJ members were very organized and making the administration look like a bunch of fools.  So they needed a diversion (the water issue) to divert attention from the real problem (the subdivision ordinance).  It is shocking how easily the Aubrey “insiders” were fooled into believing this lie. 

It is also disturbing how violent the “insiders” were against the “outsiders”.  The members of the ETJ showed up, because they had a legitimate concern about their property rights.  Yet they were literally attacked because the “insiders” were led to believe something completely different by public officials, in which the people in the ETJ were vilified.  This seems like a scene from a George Orwell book, not a small town in Texas.  With the ease that this vile hatred that was aimed at the “outsiders”, I am starting to understand how Adolph Hitler received almost 90% of the German vote in 1934. 

I can understand why the members of the ETJ are frantically trying to join other cities.  However, I hope that the city administration takes a deep look at themselves and attempts to treat everyone with dignity and respect, not just the “insiders”.  Under no circumstances should the local government overreach into areas that they are not legally allowed.  There has been a workgroup formed with ETJ members and city officials to go through this ordinance.  I hope that the city officials take the requests of the ETJ members seriously, because I for one will not support an ordinance that does not take all stakeholders into consideration, because I will never be an “insider”, and I believe everyone has rights and a voice.  

1 comment:

  1. While attending that meeting, it was obvious that the old time Aubrey residents were riled-up, bitter and angry. Clearly, they were activated like a militia to be as vocal as possible, against the sale of the water system (which was not on the agenda). The Mayor thanked them kindly for turning out and them dismissed them when she was done with the parade.

    It was sad that they did not understand that the $5.5 million Bond they were actually supporting is a millstone around their own neck. None of then knew that the water rate increase in January was the first of four scheduled rate increase that each of the 1,130 Aubrey water customers will have to pay to cover the bond debt.

    It was announced the Bond has been sold earlier in the day and Staff asked for approval from Council after the fact. Noteworthy, Staff informed council that there was no site for the Upper Trinity connection, no easements and no engineering, so why the rush to fund it? That Upper Trinity connection is to serve future residents of Aubrey, not those who have already started paying higher bills years before the future ones get here.

    Why should the ETJ residents be concerned about the $5.5 million Bond debt? Could it be that we are worried about unwise spending by a Council of that will be our debt to pay for 20-30 years after we have been involuntarily annexed into the City? The uninformed Aubrey council who refuse to listen or read what they are voting for need to be held personally accountably for what they are voting for.

    Since ETJ property owners can not vote to elect responsible Council members, then perhaps we will at least be allowed to join the ETJ of responsible Cities.