Flushing Out Problems

Eminent domain is one of those things that give me an itchy trigger finger (that’s called hyperbole for those who might be humor impaired).  And if any of the accusations floating around concerning the City of Keller’s recent use of that power to take property due to flooding on Whitley Road are true, then there are some people down at Town Hall who need to be shown the door. 

As I understand things, Jack Brock was attempting to develop a property near the corner of Whitley and Bear Creek and after trying to work with the city to deal with the drainage issues on his property he finally dammed the channel.  The problem appears to be that the city had directed runoff onto his property.  After damming the channel, Whitley Road began to flood with even minimal rain.  The city then took the property needed for an easement using the power of eminent domain. 

This has been the subject of several letters to the editor in recent editions of the Keller Citizen. 

The first letter that I really took notice of was from Lisa Harper Wood (the former library director).  I found the tone and spirit of her letter to be rather harsh and if it reflects the way she views the role of city government in relation to the rights of property “owners,” then I’m glad she’s no longer in public service.  In her view of things, it appears that the rights of a single property owner aren’t highly valued, especially if they interfere with her ability to drive on Whitley Road.  Further, she admonished councilman Jim Carson for having the temerity to speak with Mr. Brock about the issue.  I find that attitude not only perplexing, but completely unacceptable in a so-called public servant.

In the most recent edition of the Keller Citizen there were letters of response from Mr. Brock’s son and from Jim Carson.  Cass Brock made several allegations against the city I find especially disturbing, if true.

…water was deliberately channeled through manmade ditches and three 60-inch pipes under Whitley Road onto my dad’s land.

…my dad asked the TxDOT engineers why they didn’t provide underground storm drainage alongside the highway toward Bear Creek.  TxDOT said that Dresher’s staff had told them to direct it down Whitley toward my family’s land, and so TxDOT wasn’t responsible.

…City Attorney Stan Lowry informed him in a letter that the city didn’t need an easement, and if the time ever came that they did, they would just take the land from him.

Mayor Tandy and Councilmen Trine and Holmes didn’t attend, and arrogantly told Mr. Brock they wouldn’t even meet with him unless he agreed in advance to their demands.

Of course I understand that Cass Brock is the son of the landowner, so perhaps he is seeing things in a light that is unfavorable to the city.  Still,  I’d be most interested in any proof that could be provided to substantiate such charges.

Most troubling would be a city attorney who views property rights with such a cavalier attitude.  But that seems to mesh well with Mrs. Wood’s scorched earth, adversarial, approach.  Such may gratify the urges of petty tyrants, seeking to gain control over the lowly citizen, but it only engenders ill-will.  Eventually, someone will reap the whirlwind that those of Mrs. Wood’s ilk have sown.

The only person involved with the city who seems to have been willing to listen in this whole mess is Jim Carson.

In the March 20 pre-council session, Mayor Tandy insinuated that because the Council functions as a body, I was not to speak to certain people regarding matters before the Council. Balderdash.  I am certain that any remaining political problems in Keller stem from too few conversations between council members and constituents, not too many.

Mrs. Wood wrote, “Mr. Carson should never have been there,” referring to the condemnation proceeding I attended. Eminent domain is perhaps the most brutal thing a government can do to a citizen who has been accused of no crime. After I reluctantly voted to forcibly seize Jack Brock’s property,  I wanted to hear for myself how gracefully the city of Keller exercised its frightful power that I had helped unleash for the greater good. Let’s just say I was a bit embarrassed by my vote.

Indeed.  I think Mr. Carson is one of the few councilmen who get how people feel about eminent domain, and how it should be used only as a last resort.  I can’t help but think that if perhaps the mayor and some other council members were willing to discuss the issue that it wouldn’t have had to come down to putting a gun to Mr. Brock’s head to take his property (that’s what eminent domain comes down to, ultimately; if he hadn’t acceded to the wishes of the city, eventually someone with a gun would be dispatched to take Mr. Brock into custody and take the land, so let’s not pretend that eminent domain is a civilized affair that takes place only in council chambers and courtrooms).

Updated to fix the gender of Cass Brock.  You’d think that with a name like Aubrey I’d know better than to make gender assumptions based on someone’s first name.  red face

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