Tag Archives: Beaumont City Council

Here’s how you make it right, Mme. Mayor

Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames has asked residents of the Southeast Texas city she governs for forgiveness. Why? She got caught getting a nail treatment in a salon, in violation of the order she issued to residents to stay away from such businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ames’ letter of apology was forthright and, I believe, sincere.

But … this thought occurred to my wife this morning at the breakfast table and I want to share it here.

You see, Ames might be prosecuted by the Jefferson County district attorney’s office for violating the order. The maximum fine if she is convicted is $1,000. I already have said in an earlier post that Ames ought to be pay the fine if the DA, Bob Wortham, determines sufficient cause for prosecution and conviction.

Ames ought to pony up the dough anyway, if she isn’t prosecuted, and contribute at least a thousand bucks to a worthwhile charity in Beaumont. Hmm, who or what might get such a donation? Food banks? A retirement center? Emergency medical services providers? The Beaumont police or fire departments? A service employee union office?

Mayor Ames’ request for forgiveness from her constituents would be honored in full, my wife and I happen to believe, were she to take a proactive stance … even if local authorities decide against slapping her on the wrist with a fine. She might even consider doing so in addition to the wrist-slap sentence.

Voters can be forgiving if their elected leaders demonstrate true contrition.

Mayor learns first-hand lesson on trial of leadership

Beaumont (Texas) Mayor Becky Ames certainly knows what it means to be an elected leader of a city under duress.

It means, to those who might be unaware, that you must do what you order others to do, or in the case of Ames’s recent misstep … not do what she tells others they shouldn’t do.

Ames was seen in a nail salon getting a nail treatment the other day. As the saying goes: oops. Beaumont is under a shelter in place/stay at home order that the mayor issued. You know the story. The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to keep our “social distance” and we must not use services that put us too close to other human beings.

Ames was caught violating the city’s mandate.

Ames has issued an apology. According to MSN.com:

“I promise there was no malice intended,” she wrote in a statement. “I should never have entered the salon last Tuesday. I did not intend to take personal privilege while asking others to sacrifice and for that I am truly remorseful.”

Ames concluded by asking for forgiveness. “As an elected official I am held to a higher standard, I regret my action that day. I am honestly sorry and I pray that you will forgive me,” she said.

I worked in Beaumont for nearly 11 years as editor of the Beaumont Enterprise opinion page. I barely know Becky Ames, who’s been mayor since 2007. She served as an at-large member of the Beaumont City Council from 1994 until she became mayor; I left Beaumont in early 1995.

That all said, I want to suggest that Ames’s apology sounds like the real thing. There’s none of that “If I offended anyone” qualifier in it.

I also suggest that elected leaders of all stripes, at all levels, should heed the embarrassment that has befallen Mayor Ames. She knew better than to do what she did. She got caught.

As for whether she ought to be prosecuted for getting a manicure, Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham is looking into it. My gut tells me that there ought to be some punishment. An apology doesn’t expunge the record of a crime being committed. She won’t go to jail, but could face a fine of as much as $1,000.

The mayor can afford to pay the fine.

Recall election on the horizon? Hmm?

I must stipulate right up front that I don’t know Mike Getz from the Man in the Moon. Nor do I know Tyrone Cooper.

The two of them got into a major snit at Beaumont (Texas) City Hall recently, with Getz telling Cooper — the city attorney — that he ain’t “bullet proof.”

Getz, a member of the Beaumont City Council, apparently has been prone to shooting off his mouth. The council is slated to vote on a censure resolution next week. I hope the council shows some guts, if the allegations have truth to them, and slaps this guy across the face with a formal condemnation.

I’ve been away from Beaumont for 25 years. I worked there for nearly 11 years, from April 1984 until January 1995. As editorial page editor for the Beaumont Enterprise, I witnessed my share of City Hall drama during that time. The most dramatic moment occurred when the city lost millions of dollars in unsecured funds when the company that was managing the money folded. The city’s money vaporized. City Manager Karl Nollenberger resigned in disgrace.

A recall election then began to materialize. The mayor and a city council member were subjected to a recall movement. The election fell short. The council member and the mayor survived.

So it strikes me that there just might be another recall election in the city’s future.

Read about Getz’s big mouth here.

You might recall that there was some talk about censuring Donald Trump during the impeachment inquiry that resulted in the Senate trial that acquitted him. A congressional censure wouldn’t have had much impact on the president.

It’s different at the local level, in a city the size of Beaumont (population, 118,000 residents, give or take a few). Everyone knows everyone else there. Getz reportedly has been popping off for some time. A censure would have a stinging impact on a City Council member.

It also might ignite a fire that leads to another recall petition.

Time of My Life, Part 29: Welcome to the politics of race

Thirty-five years ago this week I began an amazing lesson in life and in the pursuit of my chosen craft. It marked my introduction to the politics of race and how some folks frame their public policy views on that basis.

I moved from a white-bread suburban community to a community that was — and still is — divided sharply along racial lines. Gladstone, Ore., is a nice town of about 15,000 residents. Beaumont, Texas, also is a wonderful community of about 120,000 residents. Gladstone is the white-bread town; Beaumont is divided roughly into equal parts white and black residents.

The week I arrived in Beaumont in early April 1984 to become an editorial writer for the Beaumont Enterprise was the week of a pivotal school board election. The federal courts had ordered the public school system to desegregate. Two school districts merged into one; one of the districts was mostly white, the other was mostly black. Voters had to elect a new school board that would govern the combined district.

That election also featured a referendum on whether to rename a major thoroughfare after the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While many communities had honored Dr. King in such a manner, Beaumont had not yet taken that leap.

How did the election turn out? Voters elected a new school board that comprised an African-American majority among trustees; voters also narrowly rejected the street-naming referendum.

Talk about sending mixed message! Talk about the widest range of political emotion possible!

White residents were — by and large — filled with anxiety over the school board election results, while generally applauding the result of the street-naming measure. Black residents were thrilled to have elected a school board of mostly black trustees, while generally cursing the result of the MLK Jr. referendum.

I felt it daily. I heard it daily. I had little professional experience dealing with the politics of race. Yes, I had served in the Army with African-American soldiers, so I had grown to understand this basic act: We’re all human beings whose blood is precisely the same color. My introduction to the politics of race, though, told me how differently people of differing racial makeup view the world.

I grew quickly to understand those differences, although quite obviously I could not change my own racial makeup or tell my African-American neighbors that “I know how you feel.” Quite clearly, I did not know.

It all enlightened and educated me greatly. I believe I grew up significantly as I became more comfortable while learning about racial politics in my new community.

Here’s a punchline. Years later, the Beaumont City Council — virtually without warning — decided to rename a spur that runs north-south through the city after Dr. King. It acted while the city’s local black leadership was out of town attending an NAACP conference. The local NAACP president hit the ceiling. He was enraged. The mostly white City Council stuck to its decision.

The newly named Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, I want to add, has been transformed into a beautiful thoroughfare. Beaumont’s black residents wanted to rename an established thoroughfare after Dr. King. They didn’t get their wish. They got something better.

We had departed Beaumont for the Texas Panhandle, so we didn’t get to witness the completion of the MLK Jr. Parkway. We have returned on occasion over the years. It’s a wonderful tribute to a great American.