Ethics, fairness, and democracy oh my!
It took a long time to get the City of Dallas to ‘wake up and smell the benzene/formaldehyde in the morning’, but in the end, they got it and agreed to the creation of a gas drilling task force. When this agreement was struck, the city was in the middle of city wide elections for mayor and a few city council seats.
City council Dave Neumann even lost his council seat because he miscalculated the odds and his challenger Scott Griggs. Griggs made gas drilling the center piece of his campaign, and won the election by 58%. Mayoral candidate Ron Natinsky whose ownership of Exxon stock kept him out of council discussions, also lost his attempts at the prize. Now both are on the committee that will assist in the selection of gas drilling task force members to study the issue and make recommendations to the city council in rewriting the Dallas gas ordinance. Dave Neumann is currently the co chair of the committee. We immediately saw some issues with regards to both council members being on the committee.
We asked ad hoc co chair Linda Koop, to consider this conundrum and asked for her assistance in ‘cleaning house’ to preserve the integrity of the process even if it meant extending the formation of the task force. The last day for applicants is Monday, May 23rd. The selection committee begins on Tuesday.
In part, here is what we asked:
We would request the following:
A. Council members Neumann and Natinsky be removed from the Dallas gas drilling task force selection committee immediately.
B. A new co chair for the ad hoc committee be named by the new mayor on June 29th.
C. That the deadline for task force applicants be extended by one month to June 24th
D. That the task force study time begin on August 2 and last until February 7, 2012
Since the city council has extended the lease agreement with XTO by 30 months, there should not be a rush to gather the information needed to rewrite the current Dallas gas ordinance. As you may remember, Theresa O’Donnell at city council briefing recommended a year long study on this issue which we felt was a fair amount of time.
We received a very kind response from Ms. Koop telling us that she appreciated our interest and that the city currently has 47 applications waiting to be read. But in the end, she would pass our concerns over to Mayor Dwaine Caraway. The last day for applicants is Monday, May 23rd. The selection committee begins on Tuesday, May 24th.
We copied the mayor on our correspondence with Ms.Koop and added a letter asking for his intercession to ‘clean house’.
I am sending you a copy of an email that I wrote to the attention of council member Linda Koop. In this email you will see that I and several other citizen groups listed are concerned about the make up of the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force Ad Hoc Selection Committee members. We think that it is a priority to preserve the integrity of the task force from the beginning. My understanding that both council members Neumann and Natinsky are currently listed as being on the selection committee. Since both council members will no longer be representing their districts, allowing them to remain on the selection committee sends an inappropriate message to Dallas citizens.
I have listed the reasons for my request in my email to Ms. Koop. The scope of the task force is also addressed and I would hope that such an important issue of this nature is not rushed through the process just to beat a deadline of October 26, 2011 when in fact, the city of Dallas has extended the lease agreement by 30 months. In 5 weeks. we will have a new mayor and a new council. This new team of civic leadership in Dallas should be the driving force behind the task force, and not one with some members who are leaving office with a weak or compromised track record on this subject from the beginning.
It is with hope that you once again as you have done so in the past, take a leadership role in the beginning stages of the task force to insure it’s integrity. Please take a moment to read through my email to Ms. Koop and if you should have any questions, I would be more than happy to have a conversation with you regarding this matter.