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Mertzon City Council Meeting May 6 2024

A street with a car on it next to a school campus
W. Fleming Ave., the street on the northern boundary of Irion County ISD, has been reopened by the City of Mertzon...without any safety improvements.
 

The agenda for the May 6 2024 Mertzon City Council is below, with my agenda analysis and meeting analysis underneath.


A. Agenda Analysis

  1. This is the first meeting where the language has been removed that warned that a public speaker could be called out of order if they attacked the character of a council member. See this post for analysis of this issue. The guardrails for public comment are not off, however.

  2. I predict that the turf war between the City of Mertzon and the Irion County Sheriff's office is going to become even more transparent with agenda items 5 and 6. The manhunt last month for a car jacker/murder suspect that started in Ector County and ended in Mertzon with a DPS officer involved shooting that killed the suspect in a private residence in Mertzon has brought to the surface some very real and longstanding tension between the City of Mertzon and the Irion County Sheriff's office. Add to the mix that there is no cooperation among the two for the enforcement of traffic laws within the City. I've been impressed with Mayor Stewart's willingness to mix things up with ICISD on flooding matters thus far, so anticipate a change in the status quo on these items.

  3. Agenda items 5 and 7, Fleming street repairs and 3rd and Fayette shoulder barrier, are connected in that both properties/residences border Irion County ISD. Now that we know the 2024 ICISD bonds have passed, it will be interesting to see if certain Council members are still as eager to spend City of Mertzon funds on repairing Fleming Ave. for flooding caused by the 2019 school bonds that these same Council members promoted. The District has committed thus far to spend $850,000 of the new bond money on parking and drainage. Which Council members now will be offering up City of Mertzon tax dollars to remedy the street flooding problems that they created by approving City Gym? Side note: I did not request that Fleming Ave be closed or reopened, nor have I requested that either of these agenda items be added to this agenda. I have been making it clear, however, since 2016 that what has been taking place on W. Fleming at this location is an unconstitutional inverse condemnation (taking my property without just compensation) by the City of Mertzon and ICISD; I made this argument once again in my recent post about the US Supreme Court ruling on inverse condemnation in Texas.

 
Aerial of ICISD campus with arrow pointing to oldest building
A half century of growth: Once the 2024 school bonds are spent down in the next few years, the only building still present just 50 years ago will likely be the “Legacy” building built in 1909. The Texas Legislature and Governor have created financial incentives to build buildings, but no incentives for increased teacher salaries. This photo was taken in May 2024.
 

B. Meeting Analysis (Pending) Here are the meeting documents for this meeting. (Also pending.)

  1. Public Comment: Two members of the public spoke in open forum regarding their concerns for having inadequate information during the recent fugitive incident. Because the City is small and rural, those on the outer boundaries and nearby to the city limits are quite vulnerable.

  2. Interactions with the Sheriff: Mayor Stewart extensively detailed two of his interactions with Sheriff Estes relating to an alleged unlawful bonfire and the fugitive incident. I am considering whether to post the audio of this portion of the meeting on my YouTube channel, but as of now I'm not certain that would do anything more than fan the flames. (As a privately owned and funded website, I am not getting paid for advertising and so getting page views from train wrecks does not advance my underlying goal.) Bottom line: there is serious disfunction among local government in Irion County. To the Mayor and the Council's credit, he has tasked himself, with their approval, to reach out to Judge Criner, Sheriff Estes, the Fire Dept. and ICISD to see about improving communications during critical events. Advocacy tip for government leaders: I've mentioned this before. You or a representative from your office need to attend the other's meetings, even if briefly at the beginning of the meeting before the meeting starts, to say hello, to be seen and to ask if they need anything. On the state level, one will often see various governmental agencies present at agency board meetings, particularly during a crisis. Elected officials and executive government leaders need to remember they serve the public, and being seen in public extending some civility goes a long way toward defeating turf battles.

  3. Stop signs and speed limits in the city limits, item 6: The council voted to remove speed limit signs, but not stop signs, within the city limits in 30 days. This is a move toward a "pro forma" enforcement of enforcing speeding laws in the city. The effect of this is significant. This is going to place the enforcement of state speeding laws in the hands of Sheriff Estes. City wide the speed limit will be 30 mph and 20 at the school. Expect to see public education efforts by the City in the coming weeks to communicate this change so that the public is made aware before the change is made. The significance of this change cannot be overstated. Mayor Bill Taylor stated it best years ago when he said the City's ordinances were nothing more than a book of promises because there was no enforcement mechanism. That is, there is no municipal police or municipal judge to administer enforcement, so speed limits within the city are meaningless. And, indeed, one consistent message from Irion County to the City of Mertzon is that the Sheriff's office will not enforce speed limits within the City of Mertzon. Under a pro forma enforcement, city speeding laws are effectively abandoned for state laws. It will be up to the Sheriff's office to enforce them and to the county to hear the cases and administer any fine. Council member Elliott made the motion to remove the speed limit signs, Council member Crutchfield seconded, and the vote passed with Lindley voting for and Holland voting against. I support this change. I look forward to see how the County Commissioners, Judge Criner and Sheriff Estes begin enforcing our state speeding laws within the city limit. I anticipate more coverage of this issue in the future.

  4. Fleming Street repairs and Third and Fayette shoulder barrier, items 7 and 9: The three council members who initially voted to close 4th street for the new gym, Holland, Crutchfield and Lindley, voted down Council member Elliot's motion to temporarily close the flooded portion of W. Fleming "in order to provide safety for our citizens". Council member Holland's views during the discussion are the most noteworthy. She continues to maintain that there is no problem if the District pours its stormwater runoff into the street. Her consistent voting pattern through the years on a variety of issues has been that she favors a weak city government with as little enforcement of laws as possible. (Her view on this street closure for the safety of citizens is consistent with her opposition to pro forma speed enforcement above.) Members Crutchfield and Lindley appear less inclined to libertarianism, but they certainly aren't backing away from their votes that allowed Irion County ISD to flood city streets. Otherwise, constitutional equal protect clause be damned, the Council took no action on the landowner installed shoulder barrier they had earlier approved at Third and Fayette. That the Council is treating property owners unequally when it comes to drainage and erosion (protecting that landowner while flooding me) is going to come back and rear its ugly head as soon as the bid is awarded for the 2024 school bonds. The stormwater runoff is going to have to go somewhere. One reason municipalities have stormwater plans and ordinances is that they help avoid unconstitutional taking of private property. They also support the equal protection clause in our constitutions because they force government to treat citizens equally. Without such plans and ordinances, our community becomes the plaything for outside private commercial interests (like the recipients of the 2019 bonds Jeff Potter Architects and WBK Construction, and, soon enough, the bid recipient of the 2024 school bonds) who look to profit from our oil wealth and governmental disfunction as they laugh all the way to the bank.

  5. Pending...


Copyright 2024 G Noelke

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