(Anonymous comment received via email).
I left the house at 5:30 pm. Plenty of time, I thought, to find a seat. Pulling into the high school parking lot, there were so many cars, I thought there must be football practice tonight. Walking up to the entrance, I was met by the Keep29Local group handing out flyers and red ribbons. The hall walls of the school had huge maps of the routes on them. Tables were setup where everyone was asked to sign in and handed information sheets that dated back to July 3rd’s “Frequently-Asked-Questions” from the county. My thought, we already know this stuff – what a waste of paper.
Upon entering the cafeteria, it was apparent I had left the house too late to get a seat. It was warm and I wondered if the air conditioner needed a boost or if it was just anger in the air? While waiting, Greg Windham, candidate for Pct 3 Commissioner, introduced himself to me and a friend of mine. Soon after that, candidate for County Attorney Jaime Lynn came up and introduced himself. As he stood talking current County Attorney, and candidate for re-election Jana Duty, passed by and smiled at Lynn asking “how are you?”. Shortly after that some lady with flaming red hair came up to Lynn stating he couldn’t hand out his campaign push cards. When asked why, she became irritated and told him “it was a county funded event and it was illegal”. Lynn responded by saying “this is an open house”. I think her hair went another shade of red with anger. She pointed behind us and stated “or do you need a cop to tell you” and she walked off to take a seat. Those of us within ear shot of this, just stood looking at each other in disbelief. Lynn politely put his push cards away and remained standing with us.
The meeting, or should I say lecture, started around 6:30. The panel introduced themselves with a mike which was turned down too low and most couldn’t hear what was being said. Cynthia Long was met with a low rumble of boos from the crowd. The slide show of questions appeared on the screen and they were off with their pre-scripted answers. Over in a corner close to the stage, Jim Dillon stood with a large dry erase board writing one liners. Getting laughter from writing “Thou Shalt Not Lie” when a consultant was giving an answer, and “Bertram Population 1,000,000” when another commented on future growth expectancy. The crowd had the biggest laugh of the evening when the answer to “is this going to be a toll road” was “we don’t know”. The laughter didn’t last long as those around me including myself started growing frustrated that this stuff we were forced to watch and listen to, was not answering what we really wanted to know.
Some started shouting out questions and statements in anger. A gentleman, I believe to be JT Cox, stood up and addressed the crowd requesting we let the panel speak and when they had finished we would get our turn. I didn’t keep count of the questions, but I was thinking we were going to be there all night by the time they get to questions we had submitted. Then I was jarred back to reality when it was stated that “we are going to let everyone get a drink of water and then you can go to one of the selected areas with the hands that are raised and get your questions answered”. What? People started looking around in disbelief and some stood up and walked out. It was clear we weren’t going to “get our turn”. JT Cox jumped up from his seat and with a commanding tone asked Covey and Long to answer the question, “are you going to go North, South or listen to the Keep29Local proposal?”. No answer. With that, he turned to the crowd and asked for those of us that supported the county’s plans to stand up. Realizing we were standing, we hit the floor. Then he responded by requesting that those of us supporting the Keeping29Local plan to please stand and clap your hands. It sounded like the Liberty Hill State Champs had just scored a touch down in a game. At that point, Covey took the mike in her hands and in a demeaning and condescending tone gave us the last words to be spoken on the matter. She thanked us for coming out and showing support, but all in all, what hit me the hardest was when she said, “in the future, you people will be coming to us and begging us to help you out”. I was just about to lose it when some lady in front of me decided to speak up and shouted a question to Covey who quickly told her, “let me finish and then you can yell at me all you want”. The lady tuned to me and said, “I’m not going to get that chance, just watch”. She was right. Covey put the mike up and the meeting was over. People started filing out mumbling among themselves. Some stood around shaking their heads. That was that, so I left.
I cannot speak for everyone there, but to me it seemed we did not get the same respect and chance to speak that was given to Covey and Long. As one citizen pointed out, “you, the county, hired those on the panel. They work for you, but you work for us”. Oh, yes they do and as of November 4th, you will be giving noticed that your last day is December 31,2008.