Ellen Troxclair: Bye, Bye, Bye
Outgoing CM shows why she won't be missed
It's only fitting that, in the dwindling days of this incarnation of City Council, those departing would keep our nostalgia at bay by reminding us of what we'll be missing when they're gone. Two weeks ago, it was Ora Houston and her uncanny ability to stretch out for days what should ultimately be benign policy discussions. This week, it's Ellen Troxclair picking fights as part of her role as mouthpiece for the conservative minority in this city.
During Citizen Communication on Thursday, a representative from the evangelical group Texas Values, which works to "preserve and advance a culture of family values" (i.e., anti-choice, anti-LGBTQIA) in the state, spoke against an amendment to the city's lease agreement with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas at its city-owned Seventh Street location. "Stop putting these awful taxes on your residents but then giving favor to those that are controversial at best," she said.
Jimmy Flannigan stepped away from the dais in protest of the group's anti-LGBT efforts. When he returned, he said, "I will continue to refuse to sit on this dais and hear testimony from groups that would seek to remove my personal civil rights or the civil rights of anybody in this community, as Texas Values does in their attempt to remove women's access to health care and all of the other initiatives they push, like the undoing of my right to get married and my right to adopt children."
Troxclair spoke next, calling the speaker "brave" for addressing the topic when it was clear Council wouldn't agree. Flannigan retorted that the issue wasn't about a simple disagreement, but instead the group's work to roll back civil rights. In this era, he said, we shouldn't equate the two. "These are people who see some of us on this dais as less than human," he said. "They do not represent the values of this city, and they do not represent the values of Texas."
Had it ended there, you would probably be reading a different column this week. But Troxclair couldn't let it go, countering that she hadn't heard the Texas Values rep mention anything about marriage equality or adoption. But to borrow a phrase from Flannigan (which has gone around social media in GIF form): That's not how this works. You don't leave behind your political baggage when you come to the podium to speak. You can't pick and choose when to let your anti-LGBT flag fly.
It's not the first time Troxclair has used an issue of great importance to her colleagues to posture to the city's conservative underbelly. Back in February 2017, she broke down in tears when called out by Greg Casar for spreading "lies and misinformation" during a debate on a contract for immigrant legal services. ("Council: Robert Rules, OK?," Feb. 20, 2017.) Just a month later, several of her colleagues, perhaps most fiercely Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, criticized Council's lone Republican for testifying in favor of legislation to overturn city regulations on rideshare companies and short-term rentals. ("Council: A Busy Week at the Lege," March 24, 2017.)
Interjecting to defend an anti-choice advocate might not have been Troxclair's biggest achievement in conservative firebranding, but it's a good reminder of the qualities she possesses that her colleagues (along with us in the cheap seats) are least likely to miss. I do wonder, if she returns to City Hall next year as an advocate herself, whether Flannigan will remain in his seat to listen.
OK, Enough of This ... Biosolids
At least Council can put to bed a murky chapter in its history with the adoption of a biosolids contract with Synagro, the incumbent contractor that won the city's protracted bidding process to continue making Dillo Dirt. Texas Disposal Systems, which is about as popular at City Hall as cholera at this point, has fought the city's procurement processes tooth-and-nail for years, refused to bid in protest, and held up this contract for two years. While TDS doubled down on its opposition in person, the contract passed easily. Hopefully we never again have to spend this much time talking about biosolids.
Looking Ahead ...
Next week, Council will consider confirming Atlanta's Joel Baker as the city's new fire chief (see "City Hires New Fire Chief"), tackle an ordinance moving the Office of the Police Monitor into city code (and out of the police contract), and order a post-mortem on the recent Aquapocalypse.