This week Star-Telegram editors recognized Keller’s “petty political factions that have left the city deeply divided and almost unmanageable.”
It’s no coincidence that about the time Beyond Right Field retired from covering Town Hall a couple years ago, things began to deteriorate to the point that 20 or so of our high level city employees began to “find opportunities” elsewhere. How’s that? It’s not likely they enjoyed knowing that any blunder of bureaucracy was fair fodder for all Keller citizens to read and comment on. The answer is BRF was accessible to all, and many followed it, so it commanded a transparency on council that just didn’t take well to anything akin to a hidden agenda (its archives bare out plenty of examples). So it’s not a stretch to say the watchdog that BRF was, indirectly attracted a pretty healthy culture of service minded council members, and in turn, employees from the city manager on down. And the power at Town Hall resided not in any faction of council, but the people. All the people.
Today that power is all but gone. From the people, anyway. It’s shifted to a behind the scenes smoke filled e-room. A quiet club whose membership is drawn up from those old neighborhood gas well email lists. And its voice is now louder than Keller’s typically low voter turnout. Only its members on council know for sure, and they’re not talking, but their invitation-only club is speculated at over a thousand when measured by how quickly they can fill a council chamber on any given night, night after night, saturate half of Keller with yard signs of previously uninvolved candidates, or their council cronies fall in line on a vote against a landowner. Or an ethics policy. Or, as the S-T comments reflect, organize a recall and pack the petition to do it.
They pick council candidates whose code language of “quality, controlled development” is their pledge to one special interest… low density, 1-acre lots, all cost. When I knocked on their doors, the common response was, while pointing over to some else’s pastureland, “so you’re the guy who wants to build zero lot line houses over there.” They’d been sold a whopper about me and would not let it go.
I have nothing against low density. I love low density. I’ve owned low density. Nothing wrong with acreage if that’s what YOU want. The problem is, who is YOU? Is YOU the property owner, or a secret email group? Whoever YOU is, there’s one YOU that the Fifth Amendment intended to protect from all levels of government, including Keller Town Hall…
No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
… and if you’re a Constitutionalist, you respect that right. Yet I’ve watched the behind the scenes group, via their cohorts on city council, deny this very right many times, on both sides of Keller Pkwy. Last year they denied a land owner that cost the people of Keller a heavily wooded 35 acre park, a $2M gift that had been his dream to donate to the people for decades. All that fuss over 8 Medium Density lots, and a beautiful park that had actually been planned for years in our Parks & Trails Master Plan… lost. They say it was planned Low Density in the Future Land Use Plan. Not even close; a good piece of it was planned for Medium Density. The landowner just asked to shift it around to a part of the site where it made most sense with the park he’d wanted to donate. And therein lay their technicality on which to oppress both quality development and the intent of the Fifth Amendment at the same time. All for their special interest… Low Density, all cost. Every time they get together with their council partners to tell another property owner they can’t sell Medium Density lots, they, by definition, “take” some of their property in the form of value, call them greedy, and give that value collectively to their club.
And, for as many of them who, themselves, live on Medium Density lots (most lots north of Keller Pkwy are medium density), their agenda is just as hypocritical. Because they are denying other property owners the same right to divide, that they themselves enjoyed when they bought in Keller. I’ve watched in utter disbelief as they deny property owner after property owner the same high quality growth they themselves enjoy.
Unscrupulous. Oppressive. Hypocritical. So what’s their motive? It’s really pretty simple. They love being able to live near, drive by, look at and enjoy other people’s open green pastures, without having to buy it. And for as long as they can keep landowners from realizing the same full market value they gave their own sellers, they know they can suit their special interest.
They know chats that decide other property owners’ fortunes… chats that include their select council members and their chosen candidates running for city council… aren’t the kind of chats council members ought to be part of. So they keep it all under wraps of a private email group. Not in open forum where everyone in town can read, decide, comment and vote. A venue with no secrecy. No exclusivity.
A venue like Beyond Right Field.