Mayor Nirenberg's decision to fast track a City Council vote on the future of the Travis Park Confederate monument has sparked a mini civil war at City Hall, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Nirenberg placed the issue before City Council at Thursday's meeting, bypassing the usual process of considering an issue at a City Council committee and then at a work session, saying everybody has had the opportunity to speak up already on the issue.
He cited the speakers who have packed the City Council chambers at 'Citizens to be Heard' sessions.
But northwest side Councilman Greg Brockhouse called Nirenberg's move 'divisive,' and says the mayor is 'changing the law and circumventing the process' in his zeal to get the monument removed.
Brockhouse says there is a serious question about whether City Council even has the authority to remove the 19th Century monument, saying it should be the Office of Historic Preservation and eventually the City Manager who has the responsibility to make this decision under the city's Unified Development Code.
"The Mayor is going down a slippery slope when he chooses to change the rules to govern," Brockhouse said. "We need process to keep City Hall transparent and equitable. In my view, this is not following the processes or procedures of the City and is not the City we deserve.”
That last phrase is a dig at Nirenberg's campaign slogan during this spring's campaign to unseat former Mayor Ivy Taylor.
He said the proposal before City Council for consideration on Thursday does not specify where the monument will be moved, and asks City Council to make this decision without that information, and also demands that taxpayers spend $150,000 for this purpose.
Northeast side Councilman Clayton Perry asked whether the mayor's actions doesn't indicate that he is 'not confident this measure will pass public scrutiny and open dialogue.' He also called Nirenberg's actions 'divisive.'
He said he is also concerned that the mayor and Council members Cruz Shaw and Roberto Trevino, who are pushing for the monument's relocation, are trying to utilize the concern over 'a weekend of tragedy and catastrophe across Texas' to fast track this issue.
"I am concerned that this item was posted on our Council agenda without a proper briefing in B-session (the weekly Council work session) to fully sort out the details as a Council," Perry said. "Additionally, this concerns me because we are not allowing the public the ability to sit in citizen led commission meetings, allowing our own district appointees an opportunity to do the role they were assigned," he said.
Interestingly, when 1200 WOAI news reached out to Trevino for a comment, we were told by a staffer that he was "currently focused on the relief efforts associated with Harvey."