It's hard to put Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting into words. The level of aggressive ignorance reached heretofore unknown oxygen-gasping altitudes, as a City Manager who intentionally deceived the Council and public for at least five years was compared to Jesus, and meddlesome residents were castigated for being impediments to the real job at hand – draining city "wasteland" of its gas resources.
Save for a Perry Mason-worthy cross-examination of City Manager Mary Suhm by Council member Angela Hunt with back-up by Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson, citizens looking for some accountability for the lack of disclosure over a side deal with industry, or how parkland that was never slated for drilling suddenly landed on a list of drill sites, were left very disappointed.
But professional journalists are paid to write about such things no matter how hard it is to capture the depth of obliviousness, shallowness, and empty-headedness. And If you haven't already, you need to read two published accounts that will send you reeling. One is Jim Schutze's take in the Dallas Observer. The other is today's surprisingly strong Dallas Morning News editorial. We urge you to leave an online comment in support of this editorial, as it's one of the most remarkable the News has ever published. That in itself should indicate how bad Wednesday was – even the Morning News, defender of the Dallas Establishment, was appalled.
As Schutze points out, the most over-the-top and vicious diatribe belonged to current Council member Vonciel Hill, who wrapped herself in self-righteous religious language in condemning fellow council member Angela Hunt and praising the City Manager. From her skewed point of view, it was Mary Suhm who had been outrageously wronged, and Hunt who was at fault for even questioning the integrity of a person who would engage in obviously unimportant things like secret agreements with industry, and misleading statements.
That's why we're very encouraged to hear the news this morning that longtime neighborhood advocate and clean air supporter Claudia Meyer is filing to run against Vonciel Hill in the newly-created District 3 that covers southwest Dallas. Claudia is a former Assisted Living facility director and medical social worker who's lived with her husband in the same Mountain Creek home for over 30 years. She’s been a well-known neighborhood advocate as a board member of both the Fox Hollow Homeowners Association and Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance. She also has a long history of volunteer public service on behalf of the community including membership on the boards of the Friends of Mountain Creek Library, Friends of Fox Hollow Park, and the Dallas Municipal Library Board.
But most people reading this will instantly recognize her as the motherly-figure that has guided Dallas neighborhood resistance to irresponsible gas drilling for the last four years. She and her husband Ed have been a fixture at every official meeting where gas permits have been discussed since 2009. They also happen to be longtime Downwinders, having come on board during the 1990's TXI hazardous waste burning fight.
Given the tone of the Dallas City Council on Wednesday, symbolized by Vonciel Hill's speechifying, electing Claudia Meyer may be that the most important thing any Dallas area person who calls him or herself an environmentalist can do for the local biosphere between now and June. Why? Defeat of Hill would strike at the heart of the drilling-at-all-costs faction of the Council, and just might provide a one-vote margin for denying all three Trinity East gas permits, including the refinery/compressor station that will become Dallas' 10th largest air polluter in Dallas the moment it comes online. Moreover, along with Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson, Claudia could be a strong voice for a greener, more citizen-friendly Dallas in general. That's why the North Dallas-based Citizens Council will probably be spending a lot of money trying to re-elect Hill.
We'll continue to try and help you educate yourselves about candidate choices, so that you'll when you step into the booth and pull the lever, you'll know who best answers the question: "In your opinion, If Jesus was the City Manager of Dallas, would he make secret deals with gas companies and be hankering to drill on park land?"
Finally, today folks begin arriving for the national fracking conference taking place on Saturday and Sunday at the Best Western Plus Dallas Hotel & Conference Center at 8051 Lyndon B Johnson Freeway just east of Coit (map). The line-up for speakers on Sunday is particularly stellar, as we wrote about last week – three national speakers you don't get to hear in the same place on the same day very often.
And if you want the Dallas City Council to know exactly how you feel about its performance on Wednesday, you can join members of the nationally known "Light Brigade" for an evening protest on Saturday beginning at 6:30 at the hotel. These folks use LED lights to make short "freeway blogger" type messages that thousands of people end up seeing. Very effective use of new technology. Saturday's message will be "No Fracking" and they'll be close enough to LBJ to make an impact. You can learn more about them here at their Facebook page.
What Wednesday made clear is that we have a lot of work left to do, and that this is now a defining moment in Dallas civic history. We have the power to shape it, but we all must now commit to not only talking the talk, but walking the walk – block by block.