|City Secretary Rene Dowl has added local election petitions to the online Garland "elections packet". Thank you, Rene!|
Garland's City Secretary and City Attorney's offices this week opted to jettison a manufactured "requirement" forcing all citizens to sign an easily-obtainable document in order to see and retrieve the total election package—which they need to decide whether to run for public office or are just curious about what all is involved in being a candidate.
City Secretary Rene Dowl said Tuesday the petitions that candidates are required to circulate to acquire sufficient signatures of support—25 for city council spots and 100 for the mayor's seat—to be placed on the ballot have been added to the online packet, which potential candidates or just citizens merely exploring the process can download.
Earlier Dowl's office put all but the petitions online for citizens to download privately at will. Dowl's office continued to follow previous policies for the petitions until research showed no justification for it.
Dowl promises that no one will be monitoring who actually downloads the documents from the computer.
She also said further research shows that the city's procedure of requiring citizens contemplating a possible run for public office to sign a form in order to release the "elections packet" to them was never the law nor an ordinance in the City of Garland. It was written into the City Secretary's list of duties, but no one knows why or how that entry occurred, she said.
The Dallas County Elections Department in Dallas and the Texas Ethics Commission in Austin last week affirmed to me that no county or state laws require ordinary citizens to have to sign to receive the election packets, including the citizen petitions.
Those officials suggested to me that the city needed to look into where and how the practice originated. I am very appreciative of our City Secretary and City Attorney for doing just that and acting swiftly to correct the matter. Kudos to all involved!
Only when the elections materials have been completed, the petitions signed, and the materials filed with the City Secretary should signatures and identifying information be collected and released to interested parties via the Texas Public Information Act.
|In the Garland election process, many deadlines exist for candidates for public office.|
Previously, political insiders could misuse the list of inquirers to subtly or overtly lobby potential candidates not to run—a clear violation of the freedoms we Americans enjoy to choose our elected officials without interference or inappropriate pressure.
Dowl and I agreed that that so-called "requirement" was actually like the story many have heard about "Grandma's ham recipe", requiring the end of the ham to be cut off—family members just "knew" that was how one was supposed to cook a ham. As that story goes, no one knew the origin of the requirement to cut off the end of the ham until one older family member remembered that Grandma didn't have a pan large enough in which to cook the ham, so she removed that part of the ham to make it fit her pan.
How this procedure of requiring ordinary citizens to have to sign for the public documents, giving not only their names but addresses and phone numbers, got started, Dowl says she does not know.
Both the City Secretary and City Attorney's offices were very much aware of the fallout that occurred two years ago (2016) when I innocently picked up an election packet—at which time I was required to sign a list in the City Secretary's office that I had obtained the documents. As I reported in my last blog on January 11, immediately thereafter I encountered puzzling behavior and sudden overt actions by some Garland political insiders who seized on the information, started a false rumor that I was preparing to challenge Councilwoman Anita Goebel, and argued forcefully that an incumbent should not be opposed in an election.
Just the mere act of picking up an election packet seemed to indicate that I was "coloring outside the lines" and violating the unwritten rule that a councilmember is elected, in effect, for six years, not just for the official two-year term for which the person initially runs.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with a worthy incumbent who has performed well being returned to office. But citizens in America have every right to file for office to oppose that incumbent when his or her current two-year term is up, and let the voters decide who fills the job for the next two years.
What happened to me in 2016 is history. Goebel ran unopposed in 2016 and completes her third and final term in May. I did not challenge her in 2016 and never had any intention of doing so, as I repeatedly stated at the time. The practice of requiring citizens to sign to receive the election packet is no more. Rules are in place to make sure insiders cannot arbitrarily obtain information that is not theirs.
|These are important dates as Garland moves toward the May 5 election.|
The election this May promises to be quite controversial, pitting soon-to-be former Mayor Douglas Athas and his allies against what some have termed the "Gang of Six" (two of which face re-election in May and two of which complete their final terms in office in May) and their allies in a continuing saga and battle over the demolition of the old armory—that has already occurred—and proposals for a dog and skate park at Central Park.
While the Central Park issues are highly important, the City of Garland has many other matters that also need to be addressed thoughtfully, carefully, and accurately in the approaching political season. Those include what the city is going to do about the loss of our only hospital, why our city's collective dream of having our own full-service community college has faltered badly, and what direction the city is going to take to truly involve all citizens, white and nonwhite, in the political life of our community.
Dowl said no one will try to track the computers onto which the election packets are downloaded. She said, however, that when people go in person to her office at city hall, a log is kept for statistical purposes of those who request printouts of the petitions or other election materials. That list now is available only to people who request the information in writing following the procedures outlined in the Texas Public Information Act, Dowl said. The law provides that the city must honor open-records requests within 10 days of receiving them in writing. Previously, phone-call requests from interested parties were sufficient to obtain the information. As of Wednesday, Dowl said no written open-records requests have been received for the list of those who come to her office for the petitions.
Still, the safest and most confidential way to secure your election packet to ponder what you want to do is by going to the link below and printing out your own copy on your own printer. One word of warning: the packet is huge. You may just want to read much of it online and selectively choose what to print.
Please follow this link and go to "2018 city election candidate packet" and prayerfully consider your future:
All Garland citizens need to be abreast of current political activities in our city and be prepared to make the best voting decisions possible for the future of our community.
|No legal reason ever existed in Garland for election materials such as the candidate petitions to be held so tightly by the city. Citizens are now able to freely examine and download ALL candidate packet materials.|