As hard as it is to believe, despite everything that's happened, Dallas could wind up with a more pro-drilling City Council in May than it has right now. Angela Hunt is term-limited. Scott Griggs is being paired with another incumbent, Della Jasso, and one of them won't be back. That's two out of the three major drilling opponents. Only Sandy Greyson is safe.
That's why it's important to look at the only Dallas City Council race that pits a grassroots environmental leader of the drilling fight against an over-the-top supporter of more drilling – Claudia Meyer vs. Vonciel Hill in District 3, a new district that includes much of Griggs' Oak Cliff and Southwest Dallas turf along with precincts from Hill's old District 5.
You know Claudia, even if you haven't met her personally – because she's one of you. She's a 20-year Dallas resident, who along with her husband Ed, was there at the very beginning of the Dallas fight four years ago. Like so many others, curiosity about a proposed well near her neighborhood initialed research and activism that continues today. She attended every single Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force Meeting. She's a co-founder of Dallas Residents at Risk. And if that's isn't enough bone fides for you, she's also an original Downwinder, a veteran of the TXI hazardous waste fight of the 1990's.
Vonciel Hill is a two-term incumbent who enthusiastically supports gas drilling and has shown a propensity for cronyism in office.
Most recently, you might remember her from her February 27th rant comparing City Manager Mary Suhm to Christ for having to suffer through Angela Hunt's cross-examination of Suhm about the circumstances of the secret agreement between Suhm and Trinity East over their pursuit of gas drilling permits in Dallas. The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze wrote a column about it the next day headlined: "Vonciel Hill: City Council Member, Prophet, Theologian and Sell-Out:"
Yesterday in a Dallas City Council debate over gas drilling on city parkland, Hill compared council member Angela Hunt to Haman, the killer of Jews and symbol of all evil in the Book of Esther.
Not done yet. Next, Hill compared Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm to Jesus Christ. She predicted that Suhm would one day rise from the dead and enjoy her own personal version of Easter.
Council member Hunt had questioned City Manager Suhm sharply over a deception Suhm pulled on the council in 2008, promising to fight against gas drilling on parkland, then secretly signing a deal with a gas company saying she would win them permission to drill on parkland, then taking a $19 million check from them, on behalf of the city, in return for the deal that she hid for years from the council and from the public until Hunt and council member Scott Griggs got onto it recently.
"Recall in the story of Esther how Haman built the gallows for Mordecai, but it was Haman who hanged on the gallows. Those who affix the gallows for you may themselves hang on those gallows.
"And then reach forward from the Hebrew scriptures to the New Testament scriptures, where those who said of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, 'Well, he's done, he's dead, we've got him now,' wait three days, because Easter will come and there will be the resurrection. And those who pierced him on Good Friday are no longer known, and their names are not around, but two thousand and some years later, the name of the Christ is still ringing forth.
"Miss Suhm, this is a Good Friday moment, but I guarantee you from the faith well into which I reach, your Easter is coming, and you will sail forth."
One last thing about this. Since Hill is the one who chose to put the gas drilling debate on these terms, I think it's fair for me to turn it around and ask her a question on the same terms. And this is not a joke.
If Jesus Christ had signed a secret covenant with the Romans agreeing to look the other way while they screwed over the Jews, would we remember his name today? Really? Or wouldn't he have been just one more forgotten cheap politician who took on all sorts of cheap gaudy religious airs in order to pump up his profile? Like you, Ms. Hill. Exactly like you.
This race is now the necessary next step in the Dallas Drilling Fight. The stakes are very high. If Claudia runs and doesn't win, it not only sets the cause back, but residents could very well have a Dallas city council that will be more pro-drilling than now.
Claudia starts out in a familiar place: underfunded and overworked. That's why she's asking for your help. She's requesting that you please go to her website contribution page right now and send her some needed cash. She needs to raise $9,000 by the end of the first week in April to be able to run the campaign she needs to run to win. Do this today if you want to send City Hall a message that you will continue to fight its drilling plans.
Claudia also needs volunteers to help block walk and make telephone calls, and deliver yard signs. She needs the same army that shows up at City Hall to show up in District 3 to carry the day. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know you want to volunteer for the campaign. Do it today please.
Remember how you're always saying you'd really like to work for a candidate you believe in? Remember saying how you wish you could send those so-and-so's down at City Hall a real sign of how you feel? The time is now. The opportunity is an e-mail away. In these campaigns, every day is like a week. Don't waste any time. Don't put it off. Or come May, you may find yourself with a City Council that wants to Drill, Baby Drill.
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.