In Our Opinion: San Marcos City Council meeting decorum out of control

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.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, councilmembers Shane Scott and Jude Prather had requested a couple of very sensible and what I think to be helpful items;

  • 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.”

Source: Texas Municipal League

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.

Source: Councilmember Baker’s Facebook Profile

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;

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.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, local government has become as dysfunctional as the federal government. I disagree with the mayor’s statement, “we can make our own rules”. How are constituents supposed to keep track of the ” making up of one’s own rules”? This country is supposed to be a constitutional republic. Maybe city council should sit down, shut up and get business done.

  2. No mention of Shane Scott losing his cool and saying “Max, shut up”? while crying for the mayor to silence him?
    November 17, 2020 for reference.

    Max isn’t afraid to wear a costume with a dress be/share it in public nor should he be, but it’s not an invitation to be called a fruitcake.

    Max is an incredibly thoughtful and passionate council member who asks the tough questions that deserve to be asked. Scott and Gleason are the ones with fragile egos. Afraid to be called out by those who aren’t afraid to speak out!!

    1. Stephan,
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      The policy is due to the amount of malware, spyware, and dangerous websites that are on the internet. We do this to keep our reader’s safe while on our website.
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  3. Baker sure sounds like a fruitcake with his dialogue.
    If it quacks like a duck…it’s a duck.

    Let me rephrase to prevent the keyboard warriors from crying…
    His use of flowery words and rhetoric – is a hinderance to any meaningful progress.
    Progressives and liberalism – is a mental disorder.

    If you ran for a city council position – and somehow won – just do your damn job..
    I could give one f*** less about your feelings…check those at the door before the council meetings.

    If you get your feelings hurt – you’re in the wrong job…go cry somewhere else.
    Life is hard. If you can’t be tougher than that – I’m sure there’s some other meaningless role you can fill.
    Get out of politics though please.
    You have to be an adult when you’re making decisions that impact the lives of others.
    And the others – adults like myself – have grown tired of weak, useless people seeking attention.

    Good Day :)

  4. There’s definitely far too much dysfunction among the prima donnas, divas, egomaniacs, and believers among some members of the San Marcos City Council that they are gods walking the earth. As I see it, one of the most important jobs of journalists is to speak truth to power.

    Every elected official needs a reminder from time to time that they serve at our pleasure and that their status as a public official does not place them above the usual standards of decency and respect for their peers and the public that apply to the rest of us who trod this earth without lofty titles and inflated self regard.

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