The thin-skinned hypocrisy and borderline absurdity exhibited by Mayor Mike Moncrief at yesterday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting was extraordinary even for this ethically challenged city leader.
“This council shouldn’t have to sit up here and defend ourselves or try to have to defend ourselves,” Moncrief said.
He had just listened to three residents complain that the city had negotiated a deal with Chesapeake Energy that would allow the company to plant new trees rather than pay more than $400,000 in fines after illegally clear-cutting trees to make way for yet another gas well. Some residents have been sending emails to City Hall blasting the leadership for using kid gloves with the gas industry.
“There’s a Fort Worth Way of doing business,” Moncrief continued. “It’s treating each other the way you want to be treated yourself. Pretty simple. It’s what my parents taught me…I’d be willing to bet that’s what most of your parents taught you. …Verbal and written barbs serve no constructive purpose.”
Keep in mind that Mayor Moncrief, who mentions the “Fort Worth Way” at every opportunity during meetings, is mighty handy with verbal barbs, bullying behavior, and closed-door politics.
For years, Moncrief has made a living – a very good living – on the profits of the oil and gas industry. He decided to leave the <U.S.> Texas Senate and seek election as Fort Worth’s mayor at the outset of the Barnett Shale drilling boom and, with the help of other council members, has ensured the industry enjoys weak ordinances and lax oversight.
This city leader has courted and kowtowed to drillers, helped grant variance after variance, promoted drilling to anyone who will listen, fraternized with drillers, and made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from his energy company interests but won’t abstain from voting on gas issues at City Hall.
He has shoved drilling down this city’s throat from Day One and publicly chastised residents who objected. God forbid when residents mention a gas company by name and in a critical manner during their three minutes of speaking time at city council meetings. Moncrief interrupts and warns they’ll be cut off. He glares if anybody dares confront the city staff and elected officials who give drillers carte blanch regardless of the impact on neighborhoods.
So, at yesterday’s meeting, frequent drilling critic Jerry Lobdill spoke about his dismay that the city was poised to give Chesapeake a break rather than throw the book at the company for clear-cutting trees without permission.
Afterward, Moncrief read an excerpt from an e-mail that Lobdill had sent to city staff accusing them of corruption and willful ignorance and then glared over his glasses with disgust as if to say, See, a guy like that can’t be taken seriously so discount everything you just heard from him.
Two other speakers stood up to complain about the city’s tender treatment of Chesapeake.
City councilwoman Kathleen Hicks followed these eloquent speeches by lamenting how residents complain and send bitter and accusatory e-mails and how “these kinds of personal attacks are not warranted.” Then Moncrief went off on his long diatribe about how elected officials shouldn’t have to be criticized for their actions.
Pardon me, but don’t voters get to demand performance and accountability from their elected officials? And isn’t a verbal complaint to City Hall or a critical e-mail the typical methods used to express one’s displeasure these days?
After everything this city council has done to encourage drillers at the expense of the city’s quality of life, council members should be getting a barrage of verbal and written attacks and they should have to respond to them – without trying to reverse the table and make themselves out to be victims.
In a just world, every council member would have a noisy, dusty, ugly drill site sitting a few hundred feet from their homes. They would lose big chunks of their yards through eminent domain and have pipelines buried there. They should listen to the pounding of a drilling rig all night long for weeks on end and face a steady stream of huge 80,000 pound water trucks barreling through their neighborhoods. They should breathe invisible toxins and wonder what kind of physical problems they or their children will face in the future. They should see their homes’ property values plummet and know what it’s like to be upside down on a mortgage payment.
Maybe then they would understand why people like Lobdill feel justified in accusing them of corruption and willful ignorance.