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Let It Bleed

posted on Friday, January 20, 2012, 9:47:22 PM | fractalbob

Sometimes you just gotta say what the fuck.

What the fuck happened to the powerful Chamber machine? The Storm-Trooping, Vote-Rigging, Putsch-Throwing Machine that took back City Hall from an activist regime? What happened to their plans to settle the lawsuit and turn topsy the turvy extralegal bullshit that had ruined reputations and put Chamber operations on a lean budget?

What happened to Chamber spin, those shiny defenses embroidered in gold? It’s apparently easy to convince the old boys and girls in naive and enabling HTX that their hands were clean, but that shit didn’t play in Leon County and it wasn’t gonna play in Waco.

With their backs against the 10th Court of Appeals’ door, Chamber defendants made a deal. One they could have made a few years and hundreds of thousands of dollars ago.

Now — Joe Q. and I don’t know what happened in that mediation room, but when 300 Large and Mr. Lump Sum came out arm in arm, even Keith Olson should have been able to call the winner. But in the wake of Tuesday’s mediation everyone felt compelled to make nice.

Councilwoman Lydia Montgomery, during the invocation of the regular session that followed, literally prayed for the community to reunite and move forward. Mayor Mac issued an executive order for unity — admonishing with stern eye mojo Chamber critics in Council Chambers or in front of the TV.

James Fitch made a conciliation speech after the mediation vote that struck me as ambiguous. “I’ve said it several times today. There are no winners. If anyone is looking for a winner and a loser, we’re all losers,” he said.

The settlement benefits the community by allowing us to move forward and the City to cut its losses before risking the whole wad on appeals, Fitch explained.

“I don’t think anybody’s happy.”

I don’t know about mediation insiders, but this outsider is perfectly happy. Where Fitch sees losers all ’round, I see winners.

Look, there’s a binary answer to the question of whether the Chamber misspent those hotel occupancy funds: It’s either yes or no. The evidence said yes in Leon County and it would have said yes in Waco.

But the TPTB want you to believe it’s not nearly so simple. And, frankly, when I first moved back home, I believed them.

It made sense to this native son that the good men and women I have known since my childhood were acting within a reasonable interpretation of the law when they executed their contract with the City to spend city tax dollars. It made sense that Council, attempting to pander to the New Wave who put them in office, applied a narrow interpretation of the HOT funds law to Chamber activities, hoping to raise cash for patronage projects.

Many of our citizens, including some of our best and brightest, will go to their graves believing the Chamber was full of martyrs on the day this suit was settled. What a shame. And how unfair to those who went into battle against a powerful, well-connected institution knowing full well, win or lose, there would be a huge personal price to pay.

And it’s just not true. There ain’t no “narrow” to it. I did my own homework to come to that conclusion, and you can, too. In fact, please do. It will blow away the Chamber’s desperate smoke screen, and the political mess we find ourselves in will make a lot more sense to you.

While you’re doing your own research, don’t neglect the Texas Penal Code, which makes clear that entities like the Chamber found guilty of breach of fiduciary duty must pay back misspent funds. It says that individuals charged with breach of fiduciary duty are subject to criminal prosecution.

Fractal Bob’s Principle of Win-Win says that if things could have gone way worse for you than they did, you’re a winner. Citing this principle, I argue the following:

The Chamber won — it will pay back some of the misspent funds without bankrupting itself. That’s good. HTX needs an active chamber of commerce to support local businesses and local business owners. So pay up and shut up. We need you. But for the love of God, purge from your ranks anyone who covets getting back control of those HOT funds. Some folks believe the Chamber is the law’s appointed administrator of those funds. That also is not true. It’s legal for the city to contract with a third party, but those are City funds and the City needs to exert the proper oversight over them.

Dee Everett won. I bet she doesn’t think so — there’s no denying she’s gone through life-changing shit I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But these are the predictable consequences of her choices. She avoided a felony trial and wangled a rare pre-trial intervention that, in a couple of years, will see her record expunged. That’s a damn good deal for a woman looking at jail time after living large on the taxpayer’s dime. Do I need to list the other divas and divos who are wearing ankle bracelets right now for the same fucking kind of thing? Dee’s only a loser if she wasn’t the only one misspending HOT funds, just the only one who got caught. If that’s the case, I feel sorry for her. That’s a misery that deserves company.

The City of Huntsville won. City Attorney Leonard Schneider and Fitch — who, you will remember, was elected as part of a putative pro-Chamber slate in 2010 — must have had a hell of a fight on their hands if you believe Chamber spin about the holes and weaknesses of the City’s case and the civil trial in which it handily prevailed. Yet these guys emerged with a six-figure settlement like it weren’t no thang. People all over town — regardless of persuasion — made a silent note to self about the truth of this suit Tuesday thanks to an officer of the law and an officer of the court.

The former City Council members who brought the suit against a stubborn and arrogant Chamber — winners, now and to history. And the citizen beneficiaries of that $361,000 settlement — jackpot winners. Let’s see what good the community can do with that recovered cash.

You say you don’t feel like a winner? It’s only because you’re not looking on the bright side, my friend.

The taxpayer will survive, as will the tourist, the hotelier, the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council. HTX has a lot more going for it than that little HOT funds stain on its lapel.

So let the wounds bleed if you can only stanch them with more bullshit. There must be no more spin and no more lies. If you can’t tell the truth, then change the fucking subject.

 

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