Early City Councilman David Gray’s action on June 10 makes me think of racer who was winning a race — but ended up losing after stopping to help a competitor who was in trouble.
That’s not a perfect analogy, because Gray wasn’t in a race and there were no competitors in trouble. But he exhibited a sense of fair play when he asked that a vote on the city’s water issue be tabled.
The reason: fellow councilman Benny Allcorn announced he was abstaining from the vote, saying he wasn’t ready.
Even with Allcorn abstaining, it was evident the council was going to vote to build a new water plant rather than install a pipeline and buy treated water from the water district.
Gray had been the most vocal of the council in favor of a new water plant, and when it was his turn in the roll call vote, he could’ve delivered the coop-dee-gras and ended the debate right there. Fait accompli.
But in a downright heroic act, Gray asked that the motion for a vote be tabled, saying he didn’t want to vote without the full participation of the council.
Tuesday night, the momentum had changed. With only Gray in opposition, the council voted to nix the water plant and go with the pipeline. Gray’s magnanimous gesture two weeks earlier cost him Tuesday night.
“I think we’re all in this together,” Gray said Wednesday, explaining why he asked that the vote be tabled on June 10. “I don’t play politics. My motivation at the time was, this is a very serious issue. Let’s make sure we’re right.”
Gray said it just never crossed his mind on June 10 to “take advantage of the situation.”
“It was just an instinctive thing,” he said of his request for a tabling of the motion. Going forward without Allcorn’s vote, he said, “didn’t seem like the right thing to do. It’s not a power game. It’s (about) what’s right for the town.”
Gray joked that his wife “tells me I’m brain dead when I do things like that.” Perhaps in hindsight, he mused, he hadn’t done such a smart thing after all. But then he admitted: if he had it to do over again, he’d have done the same thing.
Mayor Bob Mangrum, who’d disagreed with Gray’s stance on the issue, agreed that Gray behaved admirably. “It’s very commendable that he did it that way,” Mangrum said. “He could’ve easily said ‘I’m voting, and that’s done.’”
The entire council had acted well in resolving what became an emotional issue. On June 10, Allcorn showed some courage in saying he wasn’t going to vote because he wasn’t ready, despite being the only councilman who seemed unsure.
The rest of the council went along with Gray’s request to table the motion. “The fact that they were willing to give Benny time was certainly noteworthy,” Mangrum said.
At the June 10 meeting, City Administrator Ken Thomas made a quiet but emotional, impromptu speech, saying how important it was that the city make the right decision.
“I feel like we’re in church,” I told KOXE radio correspondent (and former Bulletin staffer) Misty Bowers. “Are we going to have an altar call?”
And on June 10 and Tuesday, while there was disagreement, council members were cordial and respectful toward each other. Mangrum said the issue hadn’t been one that would divide the council and split it into two factions.
“This group is not that way. It never has been,” Mangrum said.
I am not a big fan of anonymous posts, but I’m going to quote from one. This was posted by “Officer X” on the Bulletin’s Web site in response to the heavy criticism of law enforcement from some citizens.
It’s a poem, and it reads in part, “I have been where you fear to be. I have seen what you fear to see. I have done what you fear to do. … So take this badge and take this gun. Will you take it? Will anyone?”
No argument here, law enforcement certainly needs to be held accountable when its members mess up, either by accident or on purpose.
For those who heap the harshest, most irrational and broad-brush-based criticism, I assume you’ll be the first in line to apply for the next police academy so you can make things better.
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.