Monday night’s hearing before the city’s gas drilling task force turned out more than 100 people, and turned the flame even higher on all the issues surrounding that industry and the city’s treatment of it.
But for some folks, the oven was on pre-heat hours before the hearing even convened. Activists who’ve grown increasingly suspicious of the city’s dealings with drillers thought they smelled another rat – the hearing wasn’t going to be televised on the city’s cable channel.
To understand the flurry of accusatory e-mails that went back and forth before and after the meeting, you have to back up a step and understand that the task force – perhaps the most controversial body meeting in Fort Worth these days, and certainly the one handling the hottest potato – decided a while back not to keep minutes of its meetings.
But this wasn’t just another meeting, it was a public hearing. Would the no-minutes policy and the lack of cable-channel taping mean there would be no objective record of the arguments raised by citizens? Could the pro-drilling faction on the task force mischaracterize the testimony later? Locals’ antennae by this time are set on super-sensitive.
Eastside city council member Kathleen Hicks defused the situation somewhat. Many city meetings aren’t taped, she explained later. But in response to the requests, she asked, and city staffers agreed to tape the hearing. Still, it wouldn’t be broadcast live. “It doesn’t mean anything before it gets aired, you know,” said Suzette Watkins, who owns Riverside Kennels. “You really have to watch all the semantics with the council.”
But Hicks was on the case again. She told Static that she feels “very strongly that the task force hearings should be aired.” An employee of the cable operation said there’s a “strong possibility” the Monday hearing tape will be aired on Aug. 22 – they’re looking for a slot in the schedule, she said. The die may have been cast, however. Another Eastsider, Louis McBee, is talking about citizens taping future task force sessions themselves. It’s not like the folks distrust city hall these days …
Next hearing: Monday, Aug. 18, 4:30 p.m. No word on whether the locals will be able to watch that one live (or on tape) from their living rooms via the wonders of cable.
Savvy city folks might want to make sure it’s televised – just to reduce, even a little, the number of pissed-off folks who show up in person, with or without their own cameras.