Some citizens believe the City Council made a huge mistake on Monday night. Only time will tell.
However, political courage is an especially hard commodity to come by when seemingly powerful people have promised to end your political career if you don’t do exactly what they say. Remember, it’s not how things begin that matters as much as how they end. None of us are perfect, but we are all duty bound to follow our conscience and do what we believe is right.
It took more than a little bit of political courage for the Liberty Hill City Council to approve a three-year contract for the City Manager in a split 2-2 vote Monday night with Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy breaking the tie.
Monday’s vote on Manuel De La Rosa’s contract came after several weeks of no action being taken. In fact, outside pressure to oust him from the job has been mounting over the past few months. Some local business owners have openly called for his departure. Some believe De La Rosa has moved too fast with changes to the rules inside the city. Others have gone so far as to allege that his enforcement of city policies and rules are hurting local businesses and stopping economic growth. De La Rosa may have friends, but if so, they have remained largely silent.
For a small town, the political pressure has turned heads. Copies of threatening emails are sailing around the community. We’ve seen resignations, absences from council meetings, and tardiness that turned into absence that stopped the Council from being able to act on the issue. We’ve heard reports of possible illegal meetings with special interest groups. We’ve seen one council member publicly switch from yes to no, and back to yes again.
Did the Council do the right thing by giving a three- year contract to a city manager? Who knows? That’s a question for the future to answer.
The Council did, however, do the right thing by doing something. At least they broke the gridlock and fear of reprisal by simply standing up and doing what they thought was right.
Everyone loses when an elected governmental body tries to exist by cowering in the corner and allowing special interests to dictate by edict how things are to be. In a democracy, the loudest and wealthiest always have a voice, but they shouldn’t have the final word regardless of how much skin they claim to have in the game.
Nobody likes city managers, undertakers, home plate umpires, IRS agents or parking meter readers—unless they are doing exactly what we want them to do.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be. City managers take direction from the politicians, do the things those elected officials would never do, take the heat for the decisions they are instructed to make and serve in solitude. Somebody has to be the bad guy and they get paid to do the job. City managers lay down the rules that nobody likes, give cover to the politicians and accept the blame when things aren’t popular, and give away the credit to others when things are going well. Their favorability ratings are low and their shelf life is short. But don’t weep for them because they are trained to keep one eye on the future and the other on the door.
What matters is the Council finally stood up and voted to do something. The majority believed that having a city manager with a three-year contract would be a good thing for the stability and future of the city. A majority of the Council took this action in spite of incredible political pressure and publicly reported threats against their future in elected office.
How will it all turn out? Well, that story is yet to be written because the voters get to decide what to do next in the municipal elections on May 12.