The cause of tensions on the council are unclear, but they recently reached a boiling point of sorts. And in light of studying up on what could be long-simmering grudges, I think it’s clear some dynamic has to change. In order for a community to progress, it needs its elected body of leaders united – and Rosenberg’s council appears the furthest thing from it at the moment.
On today’s front page, you’ll see a story about the city council’s vote to censure Councilman Isaac Davila by a 4-0 vote during a special meeting Dec. 10. The criticism came after Davila’s proposed mandatory drug and alcohol testing for council members passed with a 4-3 vote on Dec. 3. It was the third time Davila had proposed the measure.\But that seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. In previous interviews with other media outlets, Mayor William Benton has accused Davila of picking fights simply because council voted against him on certain matters, especially since failing in his bid to unseat Benton as mayor last year. Davila, who refuted Benton’s claims, has been critical of some council behavior for more than a year, alleging violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act and more.
“He is upset and he is bitter,” Councilmember Jacob Balderas said Dec. 5, according to a report from ABC13. “That is why he’s going and making a circus out of everything in order to serve some personal vendetta.”
However, Davila has insisted at previous meetings that serving the city’s 40,000 residents is his only aim, by way of cleaning up what he perceives are procedural and behavioral issues on the council. Past council members such as Alice Jozwiak and Lisa Wallingford have also chimed in, supporting Davila and criticizing the council’s behavior with regards to Davila’s censuring and beyond.
“We’re just going to go forward and make a mockery of all of this and act like children,” Wallingford said of bickering that ensued over the third round of Davila raising his drug and alcohol testing proposal Dec. 3, less than a week before resigning her position on the council.
To me, those types of comments and actions scream of more than just posturing. Some tension is normal, and even necessary, on city council. Especially when situated in Fort Bend County, any elected body will come armed with a plethora of ideas, mindsets and visions for the future of their residents. To a point, dissension is healthy.
But from what I’ve seen after studying videos from council meetings, it’s fairly clear that the discord goes beyond your standard dissention. Even tossing aside council members constantly talking over each other trying to make a point at meetings, which is human nature, it appears there is some bad blood and fresh wounds that keep it mired in bitter politics. Benton and other council members such as Balderas have been quoted as saying Davila is seeking attention by way of his proposals and criticisms of council that have persisted since his election in 2018, which Davila continues to refute. An on it has gone.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, ever. I would love to see everybody put all this crap aside and just do our jobs and work for the people of Rosenberg,” Councilman Steven De Grgeorio said of the alcohol accusations, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.
I agree to a point. And in the end, the biggest question I have is this: Provided council members really believe Davila has been disruptive with his behavior or proposals, or guilty of even half of the laundry list of allegations read off Dec. 10, immediately before the censure vote, why did they just now come to light?
In some cases, nearly a year had passed since the alleged violation or group of infractions. If they really believe some of Davila’s claims or criticism were baseless or worthy of serious action such as censuring, why not take action sooner? Something seems off there. The situation also could’ve been handled without the public circus it appears to have devolved into, which resident James Urbish called “an embarrassment.” Of course, there would have been back-and-forth discussion as with any censuring hearing, but again, I feel this goes beyond what is standard.
So what’s at the core of all of this? At this point it’s difficult to say, since only the council members know what goes on behind closed doors in council chambers. I don’t know Davila or any member of the council personally, so I won’t pretend to have any idea of their motives for proposals or criticisms of the others.
But one thing is for sure. If the recent happenings are any indication, Rosenberg – as with any city – needs its council body to get its own house in order before it can hope to move forward.