Melissa Jewett, Publisher
Anyone watching the San Marcos City Council meetings over the last two years has seen the dysfunction that has taken over the dais. Painfully, it has played out for all to see and hear during every meeting.
- Item 28 “Hold discussion about the use of Robert’s Rules of Order…”
- Item 29 “Hold discussion about current city council rules of decorum…”
“How our meetings have been conducted, I’ve had some concerns and possibly some ideas on how we can improve them. The thing about Robert’s Rules of Order it was really to address the time we’re spending on agenda items,” said Prather.
He went on to suggest time limits on discussions of agenda items but made a point to say he didn’t want to put a limit on debate and suggested using the council message board to save time during meetings.
Mayor Jane Hughson suggested setting their own rules on time limits stating, “We don’t have to follow Robert’s Rules. We can set our own rules.”
“Do we all believe in personal responsibility? When someone is elected to city council, they should know they are taking on a responsibility to be ready for a council meeting,” said Hughson. “That means read the packet, get your thoughts together, be ready to express your thoughts and opinions…concisely without personal attacks. Come to the meeting prepared and bring your notes.”
Councilmember Scott believes time limits would make things more efficient. “We are here to vote and all our research should be done.”
“We have talked about this in executive session, and I thought I had made myself pretty clear. Robert’s Rules of Order…they are a form of oppression,” said Councilmember Maxfield Baker. “They are historically used to limit debate so that people with impassioned speeches are cut short…not given the opportunity to speak, to be angry or something like that. I see Robert’s Rules and their mechanisms of government used as I said to just move government forward and not necessarily to address uncomfortable conversations.”
Some people like Robert’s Rules of Order while others find them too restrictive. However, one of the major objectives of Robert’s Rules is allowing people with differing opinions to have them heard and discussed.
Something I believe is missing in 2022, that Robert’s Rules call for, is respect and decorum; this allows for healthy debate.
“So, you are asking me to show up to be ready and concise and not repeat myself. Let me remind you that one of the most powerful tools of rhetoric is repetition. So you are taking away from me one of the most powerful forms of communication,” said Baker.
What is Rhetoric? If you ask Alexa, she will tell you, 1. In writings or speech the undue use of exaggeration or display. Bombast. 2. Meaningless language with an exaggerated style intended to impress.
I hate to repeat myself. If you were to ask my daughter when she was 10 and now at 28, what is the one thing Mom hates the most? She would roll her eyes and say “To repeat herself.” And trust me…I’m not the only Mom out there who feels that way.
So, when Baker sits on the dais/Zoom and continues to repeat himself even while rephrasing his comments to me, it sounds like he is just trying to get other council members to submit to his way of thinking.
That is not a debate; that is manipulation (the usage of influence over a person, event, or situation to gain the desired outcome).
Baker then accused Councilmember Mark Gleason of calling him a “Fruitcake” at an event and of showing people photos of Baker wearing a dress while campaigning against Gleason. Baker won that 2019 race by 30 votes.
Name-calling should be off-limits, especially on the dais, but if Baker does not want people to see the photos of him campaigning in a dress, he should have never put that dress on much less allow someone to take photos and post them on Facebook! It’s called politics, and everything is fair game in the world of politics.
“Because of that, it’s really troublesome for me to sit here and agree with you on something. I have tried to work very hard to hear your ideas and listen to them and be supportive because you have good ideas, Mr. Gleason. It’s been really tough for me to agree with you sometimes because in the back of my mind that still lives there. The contention between us when we ran against each other was dirty, and it was uncomfortable,” said Baker.
Baker is admitting that Gleason has some good ideas, and it kills him to agree or vote for Gleason’s good ideas. That also means that every resident of San Marcos suffers when Baker can’t let go of his ego.
And what place does a past election have on the dais? It doesn’t. Period.
Gleason stated he didn’t believe that limiting debate would be good for the council or the community. “You bring something to the table, and I bring something to the table. And we try to find a middle ground, and that’s literally how the sausage gets made,” said Gleason.
Councilmember Alyssa Garza had her own thoughts.
“Something I wrote down from a blog, ‘Policing people’s tone by expecting that their anger be filtered in a polite complaint is a perpetration of injustice, and it’s time we started recognizing it as such.’ I’m not going to do y’all’s homework. But I really hope that you guys take some time to look into the history of the oppressive and problematic nature of respectablility politics when it comes to how that influences representation and how that doesn’t leave space for those of us who do feel like they are carrying generational trauma and anger of our community.”
One thing I like about Garza is she is genuine. However, I don’t agree with her on almost everything and especially this point.
Being polite with your anger and tone is respectful to one another. Why is being polite “a perpetration of injustice?”
The definition of Perpetration is the act of committing a crime or a violent or harmful act. And apparently, Human rights activists have accused the country’s government of systematic perpetration of violence against minority groups. Add that together with “Injustice” and take a look at what you have.
Being polite with a complaint or your anger or expecting others to, seems to now mean you’re a very bad, crime-committing person!
And what is “respectability politics anyways?”
Well, I would hope that most people know what respect means and how to be respectful. And most know the definition of politics. But put those two words together and POW!
According to Dictionary.com “respectability politics” means “a set of beliefs holding that conformity to prescribed mainstream standards of appearance and behavior will protect a person who is part of a marginalized group, especially a Black person, from prejudices and systemic injustices.”
Who would have thought that putting those two words together would mean?!
“I think a lot of this gets back to decorum, and I agree with Ms. Garza and where she is coming from that this is a generational divide on how things should be discussed in a public forum,” said Gleason. “But this is a professional environment. Look we have a citizen who comes in here and speaks during the citizen comment period and brings it up every time somebody is chewing gum or if someone isn’t sitting upright. I wouldn’t go into a professional environment and do these kinds of things.”
Included in the agenda packet were three Codes of Conduct and Protocols for the San Marcos City Council;
- 2008: Resolution 1998-218R – Billy G. Moore
- 2008: Revised – Mayor Susan Narvaiz
- 2017: Resolution 2017-1413RE -Mayor John Thomaides
However, in September 2021, the council added to Sec. 2.045 Code of Ordinances Rules of Decorum for the community who attend meetings of the city. Even going so far as adding a misdemeanor with a $500 fine.
In our opinion, the current council has a responsibility and a lot of work to become cohesive, professional, and knowledgeable for the community. They are doing a significant disservice to all their constituents even if they believe they are doing the opposite.