Last night’s Big Spring City Council meeting on 06/23/2020 came to an abrupt halt after four council members walked out of the meeting after their attempt to appeal the decision of the Chair was declared invalid by the mayor.
Councilman Raul Marquez, District 1, made a motion to approve a resolution authorizing the creation of a New Infill Development Incentive Program designed to facilitate private investment toward the construction of single-family housing within the city limits of Big Spring and therefore encourage Economic Development that benefits the health, safety, and welfare of the Big Spring community. Mayor Shannon Thomason then ruled the resolution to be out of order because it did not follow the direction of the Council that was issued at a previous meeting to create a program for infill development incentives on existing subdivisions. He stated that he was not opposed to the program, but he pointed out that the current resolution could also be used for new developments and remodeling.
Marquez contended that the goal of the resolution was to give the city a better look and increase their tax base. He suggested that the resolution be amended but not shut down. Camilla Strande, Council Representative for District 5, reasoned that the wording of the resolution still met the direction of council, however, Thomason stood by his ruling that the motion was out of order. DePauw later tried to appeal the decision of the chair, but Thomason advised that he was not able to because it was not done immediately. Mayor Thomason stated that Marquez had the floor and did not take the opportunity to appeal the chair.
At that time, DePauw stated that he had had enough, and walked out of the meeting. Strande then followed, stating that she was tired of playing games. Council members Marquez and Terry McDaniel, District 3, also walked out. Before leaving the City Council Chambers, Strande stated, “If we stand here and let him do this, then this is how it will be every meeting!”
Thomason and District 4 Council Member Gloria McDonald were the only ones left sitting at the table. Council Member Doug Hartman, District 2, was not present for the meeting. Since there were not enough council members to hold a quorum, the meeting was adjourned.
On May 26, 2020 City Council members unanimously passed a motion to direct the City of Big Spring City Manager and staff to develop a program of development incentives for infill lots in established subdivisions. Council members Marquez, McDaniel, and DePauw were appointed to the committee to give input to the City Manager in developing the program.
According to Mayor Thomason, the resolution presented allowed not only infill development incentives for existing subdivisions, but also for new developments and remodeling. He pointed out that the resolution also went into larger housing, and the original discussion was to create workforce / inexpensive housing. Thomason stated that he ruled the motion out of order because the resolution overstepped the direction of the council.
Thomason went on to explain that, per Robert's Rules, when a motion is ruled out of order by the Chair, if it’s going to be appealed, it must be done so immediately. He stated that instead of appealing it, the council led into discussion, thus making the appeal invalid.
When asked his thoughts on the walkout, Thomason stated, “I’m really disappointed in the council. They have a job to do. They’re there to represent the citizens.” He went on to say that he is for the infill incentives for existing subdivisions, and has been for it since it was discussed at the May 26, 2020 meeting, but what was brought back to council did not meet the requirements that had been established.
When asked what led to the walkout, DePauw told KBest News that the Mayor wasn’t going to let them vote on the resolution that was worked on by 3 of the 6 council members.
“Terry McDaniel, Raul Marquez, and I worked on that resolution. Raul wanted it on the agenda, and the mayor hijacked it. It’s tyranny! It’s what it is and we’re not gonna stand for it any longer,” said DePauw.
Thomason had stated in the meeting that resolution could be brought back to the council at a later time, but Strande told KBest News that it shouldn’t have to be brought back.
“As a council member we can bring and put anything we want to the agenda. It’s our right as a council person. When the mayor overrules us. He is ruling and making decisions as if he were a dictator to determine what we can speak on and what we cannot,” said Strande.
When asked what she meant with her comment, “I’m not playing games anymore”, Strande went on to explain that since he’s been placed in office, the mayor has continually abused Robert's Rules of Order.
“The mayor chooses which rules he wants to enforce and which ones he shouldn’t, just like tonight when he overturned that motion and wouldn’t let us make a second. There shouldn’t have been any discussion,” said Strande.
She went on to say that the mayor is not allowed to make any motion but he does it regularly.
“He makes motions. He makes seconds. As the chair, he’s not allowed to do that,” continued Strande. “He is continually abusing Robert’s Rules to control our right to speak, our right to put forward ideas, and our right as a council to make progress for Big Spring.”
Strande advised that she cares very much about Big Spring and she only wants to see Big Spring make progress.
“I’m going to continue to work for that. No matter the obstacles, I will continue to do my best to serve Big Spring and to continue to make progress,” said Strande.
Now that the council has taken a stand, McDaniel told KBest News that he hopes the mayor will now understand that they will not tolerate his interrupting, overruling, and doing things outside of Robert's Rules of meeting.
The items on the agenda that were not voted on last night are expected to carry over to the next meeting.