Sometimes, we believe we understand what is going on around us, when we truly do not have all the facts at hand. We act with the best intent, but lack all the pieces to the puzzle.
As I promised when elected to council, and later to be your Mayor, I have encouraged participation by the citizens in the council meetings, and promised an open door to my fellow Blanconians. I have, until recent personal tragedies in mid July, held 8-5 office hours at City Hall each Friday.
When I canceled the July council meeting, I was in Austin taking care of affairs after my brother’s death. My staff provided me information that was going to be presented at council to keep me apprised.
Two petitions had been generated to bring to the Council; however, since neither of these items was on the agenda for that night, no action could have been taken. I still want to address them to help inform citizens as much as possible.
Petition One:This eight-signature petition involved the July 4th discharge of water from the hydrants in Johnson City and Blanco. It mentioned that “attaching the title of ‘terrorism’ is too strong for what would have been considered a mischievous prank not too many years ago” and considered their actions “immaturity and ‘in the moment’ stupidity.”
The petitioners should understand some basic facts. Since the attack on 9/11/2001, there are certain events that will automatically trigger responsive series of events under the Homeland Security Act. Not because the Mayor of Blanco, the Chief of Police, or the arresting officer says so. Instead, because our nation suffered that attack on our own soil, our laws have been strengthened to address future threats to the public.
The morning of this water discharge, I was required to contact the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) at a hotline number to report the event. I was not tasked with classifying it as a terrorist act, I was simply required to report that it happened, the amount of damage (loss of water, damage to a new street, manpower, etc).
That entity was required to classify the event as to whether it fell within the criteria of a terrorist threat on a public utility, which, according to the guidelines, TCEQ staff told me it did. Responding staff at TCEQ then followed its own procedures to contact the Governor’s Office and the Operations Center; not because I or anyone in Blanco asked them to, but as protocol.
The charges were filed with assistance and including direction from the 33rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, in accordance with the law. It is not the Mayor’s, nor the Blanco Police Department’s job to judge these young men.
We cannot appropriately say whether or not they are guilty of illegal acts, any more than the individuals who signed this petition. All the facts will be gathered through a thorough investigation, during which time neither I, nor the police department, can make comment or judgment. At the discretion of the district attorney’s office, these facts may be presented to a grand jury, and if they are indicted, at court.
If that occurs, a jury of their peers will make a determination of innocence or guilt based on all the facts presented in court.
Whatever happens now is at the discretion of the District Attorney’s Office.
Petition Two:A second petition with 25 signatures came with an accompanying letter that expressed concerns over my naming Carl Bragg as “interim Chief of police” and asked the city to put out postings to allow for qualified applicants to apply for Chief of Police.
My appointment of Carl Bragg as interim Chief was made at the recommendation of retiring Chief Ed Sonier and will remain so until a permanent Chief is selected through the normal panel and city council procedures.
I encourage citizens with concerns about any issue to call City Hall to set up a meeting with me to discuss them.
That is part of the job to which you elected me. City council meetings are posted, and open to the citizens. Citizens may request to have an item that is related to city business placed on the agenda. Personnel matters are not debated publicly.
My invitation is ever-present for you to come and be a part of learning your city government, becoming actively involved, and knowing the facts about why your city government makes the decisions it makes. Because in the final analysis, those decisions should always be reflective of the wishes of the citizens as a whole.