August 14, 2003
No loonies, please
This is an amusing story about an important principle: The Harris County Commissioner's Court is looking for a way to keep the wackos from wasting their time by adjourning their meetings before the floor is opened to the public.
For the last 11 years, Charles Hixon has rarely missed a meeting of Harris County Commissioners Court so he could publicly scold Commissioner Jerry Eversole over a clogged roadside ditch on his Huffman property.
But County Judge Robert Eckels wants to pull the plug on Hixon and others who come to the court with complaints having nothing to do with the county.
Like many public bodies, Commissioners Court has a cadre of regular speakers. Some display signs of mental illness, discussing topics ranging from sinister alien rays to who is the "true president of the United States."
"Most recently, it was that the county judge and commissioners had had all of our organs replaced and we're controlled by the international global Mafia," Eckels said Tuesday. "There may be a couple of commissioners whose organs have been replaced, but there are forums for that kind of discussion. There is no reason that they should make those comments here at a meeting of the court."
Eckels said he would begin adjourning meetings before allowing such speakers to say their piece. Court members would be free to stay and listen or leave the room.
"It is degrading, not only to Commissioners Court, but to the entire process of government," Eckels said. "People who want to speak can speak. They can speak on the courthouse steps all day long. If they want to address the Commissioners Court, it needs to be about business which is either before the court or which we can legally do."
I sympathize with Judge Eckels, but beyond the Open Meetings problem that the county attorney's office has noted, what about those who show up at these meetings with legitimate questions? There's no way to filter out just the cranks, so I think the right answer is for the Court to suck it up and let them have their say.
Eversole -- the target of Hixon's speech -- is more supportive of Eckels' plan. In recent months, he has made a habit of having Art Storey, director of the Department of Public Infrastructure, respond to Hixon's biweekly remarks with a scripted speech of his own stating that the county cannot fix the ditch because it's on private property.
That's the right idea. Letting everyone have their say does not mean giving them all an equal amount of respect and attention. But you do have to let them have their say first.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 14, 2003 to Local politics
I give up, "who is the true president of the United States"?
Al? Dick? Laura?
Speaking of Hixon, Is it any wonder he's not the president?
Giving the County Commissioners the ability to screen speakers is a very dangerous suggestion.
Thank God, It will never be allowed.
I notified the Houston Chronicle of key errors in the reported facts, without which, they would not have had a story.
Interesting topic, seems unlikely that the Court would be able to keep people from talking about such things, i.e. organs being transplanted, etc. I do wonder though why Charles Hixon believes that County government should maintain his private property, i.e. wouldn't the taxpayers be footing the bill for such? Perhaps Mr. Hixon should respond as I may be missing something. Anyway, thanks, I enjoy the site.
I don't own the land to which I refer.
For those of you who may have a passing interest, here is a copy of the Hixon speech that the Chronicle refers to:
"Thank you Judge Eckels.
Commissioner Eversole, I'm Charles Hixon. I live on Palm Lane, which is a County Road in your Road Precinct 4.
The ditches where I live are overburdened and do not drain. Water routinely backs up onto my property from your roadside ditches.
You promised to take care of this, here in Commissioners Court, on October 29, 1991.
[recording of Eversole's voice from Commissioners Court proceedings, October 29, 1991 played back into the microphone: "...I promise, it'll be taken care of..."]
That was 13 years ago, Commissioner Eversole, and they still have not been fixed, and I'm here to hold you to your promise.
Commissioner Eversole, your Engineering Department stopped me from fixing this.
So I ask that you remove your dikes and restore drainage,
consistent with the subdivision records and supported by the regulations you've established and enforce,
as you promised."
As of June 16th, 2006, a Mr. Miles Hunter who requested a response from me above this block hasn't responded. The reporters who have written the wonderful articles about me in the Houston Chronicle are no longer employed by the paper and are currently employees of Harris County. And Harris County Judge Robert Eckels still asks me to appear before the microphone at every meeting, anticipating, and hearing, the speech as dictated directly above this block.