DeYoung talks of refocused effort on Council



Taking a moment to speak personally to the community, City Council member Tony DeYoung stepped away from the dais at the July 27 meeting.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, DeYoung used his three minutes to defend his independence on the Council, pledge more oversight and encourage residents to get more involved, especially at the ballot box.

As he wrapped up his comments, he posed a pair of questions.

“What kind of city do you want? What reputation do you want our city to have? I ask that you ponder these questions and head to the polls to cast your vote along with me.”

In a later interview, he explained his call for residents to vote in the upcoming election, but he did not comment on which mayoral candidate – incumbent Rick Hall or challenger Liz Branigan – people should support.

“That was a real call out to our citizens,” he said. “I think the last election maybe a tenth of our registered voters actually went out and voted. It was a call out to them to get out and come vote with me. I hope it is a bigger turnout because it’s a national election and there’s more on the ballot this time. This is an important (election) for our town, too.”

Accountability is something he said will get renewed focus.

“I will ask better, more-informed questions of the Mayor and staff while in open or closed sessions,” DeYoung said. “My goal is to hold the Mayor and staff accountable for the function and perception of our city. This is my job and I’d like to admit I can do it better than I have in the past.”

Referencing a number of times The Independent has criticized the Council for not acting independently of Mayor Rick Hall’s agenda, DeYoung said he wanted to clear the air on the issue.

“Some things have come across in the paper and on Facebook as far as the perception of City Council and I think a lot of people who have made those statements don’t know anything about me,” he said. “I wanted to make some public comments to clear the air and address what I think is important, and where I stand on my position in regard to the Mayor.”

He added that he is an independent voice on the Council

“During my time on City Council, I have never been or will I ever be a rubber stamp for the Mayor, part of a kangaroo court or am I in someone’s pocket as has been suggested,” he said. “I am an independent thinker and I weigh each agenda item and vote as I think is best for our town. I take into consideration the impact of my vote and I welcome feedback and input from the community on matters that are important to them.”

Citing the swim center project and planned work on the Loop 332 and CR 279 intersection downtown as his top priorities going forward, he said he believes the community supports his role on the Council.

“I feel like the citizens are okay with me in this position so I want to do what’s right by them and that’s really my focus,” DeYoung said. “It was a humbling experience for me, saying that I can do my job better. I can ask better questions and be more informed when I walk into a meeting with beforehand research and talking to staff members.”

One issue DeYoung said he has not been able to bring forward in public discussion is Hall’s supervisory authority over city staff.

“We as City Council have given the Mayor supervisory authority over city staff and we are the check against it,” he said. “This check system is one of the most important functions we serve in government. I have tried twice to get an agenda item on record to discuss and review the Mayor’s authority over city staff and twice, once by my own oversight by not meeting the submission deadline, and once for lack of a cosponsor, which is required for placing an item on the agenda, it did not make it into open session for discussion. I will continue to strive to get this item on for open discussion.”

With many changes in staffing since that decision was made last fall – with a vote to temporarily give the Mayor supervisory authority – DeYoung believes it should be addressed publicly.

“It’s been a few months since we agreed to give him the authority and we really haven’t talked about how it’s going,” he said. “I know we’ve let go of some staff and I wanted to review it and see how things are going from his perspective. It is my job to question the Mayor. It is a check system. I intend to do that better than I have in the past.”

Speaking for himself, DeYoung wishes the lines of communication between the City and The Independent would remain open in order to get complete information out to the public.

“My perspective is I’ll answer as many questions as you have for me that I can answer,” he said. “I think if there are things in the paper that I think are incorrect or not true then I don’t think the solution is to completely not speak to the paper or address the things that I think are inaccurate. I think the correct way is to engage with the paper if somethings wrong, or I think is wrong, that I can talk to, and say it is wrong and if it comes to a retraction then it is a retraction.”

It doesn’t serve the City well to not respond with the other side of a story.

“I see that if you have one side of the argument, and the other side doesn’t want to answer anything then you only have one side of the story,” he said. “I think if I can speak to something and it is another side of the story then that gives both sides and I think two sides is a good thing.”

Adding the full council agenda packets to the website prior to meetings – a decision announced by the City last week – is a good step, according to DeYoung.

“I saw that we’re going to post full agenda packets on the website, which I think is a great idea, so that anybody can pull those down and see the budget numbers and see the CIP project numbers.”