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City of Brady

For better or worse, times have changed. Brady and the Texas Hill country are no longer forgotten and ignored by Austin and Washington DC.  The bureaucrats and politicians have extended their reach and consolidated their power. The law is no longer what local rich families say it is. The law is what faceless bureaucrats, lawyers and politicians in Washington and Austin say it is. We will call this faceless army of pestilence "The Man"

Brady has been able to postpone and evade facing that fact simply because there isn't much in Brady to steal. "The Man" took his time to introduce himself. When he finally did, he liked the look of the water, game, farms and ranches around here. Particularly the water, because "The Man" is thirsty, very thirsty. That is another story for another day.

Right now, we just want to notice there is an new boss in town and he isn't related to the old bosses. The old bosses are long dead and gone. Their descendants have spent their inheritance, respect and power. There is no one to oppose the new boss but you, the people.

"The Man" is visiting Brady again to demand his due. He comes with harsh threats and pretty promises. The threats are real but the promises are conditional.

The people of Brady and their leaders should pay careful attention to the terrible high price of accepting those promises as well as the terrible high price of not accepting them. We should consider carefully because we have but one life to give and only one soul to sell. Before you decide, look at the evidence.

"The Man" promises free or cheap money but then tells us how to spend it. If someone else dictates how to spend it, is it really yours? Why doesn't he just spend his own money and leave us out of it? The answer is that "The Man" doesn't have any money of his own. All he has is what he takes from you and your fellow citizens.

The promise is hollow but the threat is real. How does playing that game work out for the people?

"The Man" paid for renovating the McCulloch County Courthouse. It looks great but the people of McCulloch County don't own it any more. The citizens can't even hang  a Christmas star on it or fix a leak in the roof without doing it like "The Man" says and paying his agents.

Brady has a nice new hospital that operates exactly like "The Man" says and offers what he wants you to have for medical care. Brady has new schools that teach exactly what "The Man" says. Then take the time to talk to some of the people living in subsidized housing and find out exactly what it is like to live on what "The Man" gives you.

Your elected leaders (and the people they hire) have chosen for you. They chose for you when they took The Man's "free money". It came with conditions that make every citizen subservient to the "new boss in town".

You, the People have one choice left - to find new community leaders who will cut a better deal or keep the current "leaders" who sold out cheap.

Think it over. There is no easy answer.

Wisdom is the ability to separate the important from the unimportant. Leadership is the ability to focus on the important and dismiss the unimportant. Both qualities were sadly lacking in yesterday's lengthy City Council meeting.

The meeting began sensibly enough with discussion about a Drought Contingency Plan, (See Drought Contingency Plans),  a presentation by interim City Manager Dale Brown about making more information readily available to the public, and a number of routine business items.

The City has two over-riding priorities right now: 1) meeting Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) public water supply requirements and 2) meeting TCEQ waste water treatment requirements. The twenty-five item agenda did not present a plan to correct these glaring deficiencies, but instead veered into a rambling discussion about various grants that might be available to the city. A walking path along the creek, a new animal shelter and solar panels on the roof are not priorities. They are distractions to divert public attention from the City's failure to provide basic public services.

But the Council saved the biggest distraction for last as MUDualistic manager Ben Siebert asked the city to give him $47,000 because his ATV park development had to comply with federal, state and local law. The outlandish, almost comical, demand is certain to set tongues wagging, divide the community and distract everyone from basic public services.

The sad fact is that it won't distract the TCEQ or satisfy their Notices of Violation, issued years ago. After Brady failed to take action to bring things into compliance, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Enforcement which allows the city 18 months to comply. Failure to meet this deadline will bring serious penalties.

To put things into perspective, over a year ago the city began pouring serious money into the MUDualistic ATV Park over strenuous citizen objection. Since then, they have dumped some two million dollars into a ill-defined, open-ended warehouse project. If the City Council and City Manager had the wisdom to set proper priorities, we would not be borrowing millions on an emergency basis now.

Drama and gossip are no substitute for tending to business. Don't be distracted.

The two City Council members who took time to attended the Sept 20 citizen meeting said they were shocked at the number of people there. They apparently thought discontent was limited to a few chronic complainers. That fact alone is positive proof that the City Council is disconnected from the people of Brady.

By living in splendid isolation from the people they are supposed to serve, listening only to those who agree with them and answering to no one, the Council creates suspicion, conflict and community disunity. Complete honesty with the people would unite the community.

The City budget has ballooned by $7 million in the past 4 years.  In the fiscal year just ending, the City budgeted $20 million and spent $21.5 million. In 2005, there were no Utility Distribution charges. Today they exceed the cost of utilities themselves. These are huge sums of money for a small, poor rural community of 5500 people like Brady. People don't see any visible improvement in City services. Handing people a 125 page budget and saying, "Figure it out for yourself", shows more contempt than honest openness.

Even with all these huge spending increases, Brady still does not have a water supply that consistently meets state minimum standards. Now we find the Sewer Treatment facility is in critical condition and must be replaced. The City Council will not explain to us why this wasn't done years ago. If first spending priority isn't these vital public services, exactly what is?

When large sums of money disappear from the public treasury without tangible benefit, people begin to suspect mismanagement and/or corruption. The suspicions could be laid to rest by a simple, honest, open, common-sense explanation.

The overall message to be drawn from the Sept 20 citizens meeting is that the people want respect, honesty and competence from the City Council and City Manager. There is nothing strange or even surprising about that. Deliver it and the community will unite.

You, The People of Brady did your share to bring about more open and responsive government last night. By chair count, about 150 citizens attended. It was a success in that everyone did adhere to the Simple Ground Rules laid out in the meeting plan. Discussion centered exclusively on issues rather than people. People respected each other and listened to whoever was speaking. There was only one sharp exchange that ended when both parties had the good sense to drop it and let others speak.

No one knew exactly what to expect from this first meeting, so specific planning was impossible. It developed into more of a "question and answer" session  than anyone anticipated. As a result, the moderator spent more than the promised ten minutes at the microphone. This proved to be a beneficial turn of events.

Only one member of the City Council (Brendan Weatherman) spoke, but contract city attorney Susan Horton spoke many times during the meeting. After repeated, direct questions, she was forced to give details about the current proposed Waste Water project. For the first time, the people know that this is a Waste Water project that has absolutely nothing to do with drinking water. It will cost about $11 million. The people of Brady will have to borrow about half of that. The current proposed $1.2 million issuance of Certificates of Obligation is just the beginning. Another $4.3 million will have to be borrowed later from the Texas Water Development Board.

Waste Water manager Marty Martin gave an excellent overview of the proposed project. He invited everyone to contact him personally for details and a tour. In brief, the project involves building a new Waste Water treatment plant at the existing location on the east side of town and connecting all of the homes at Brady Lake to the system.

Many questions remain unanswered. For example, Attorney Horton said the project had been under consideration since 2008 but that there was no time to put it on the ballot for voter approval. That seems disingenuous at best, as does the claim that the City cannot have a special election before May of next year.

People left wondering why the Waste Water problem was not addressed years ago and why they need to borrow money on an emergency basis. The City spent millions over the years on less necessary projects while letting the basic, vital water and sewer infrastructure deteriorate. If they would simply listen to the people, that would not happen.

Citizens were able to express their displeasure about the lack of City Council transparency and poor spending prioritization. The evening passed before a number of important topics could be discussed. Among them were the petition to force the City to obtain voter approval before borrowing money, utility distribution charges, electricity deregulation and overall spending levels.

The volunteers at Better Brady Now are going to try something that, as far as we can tell, has never been done in Brady before. We are going to host a meeting specifically to Listen to You, the people of Brady at the Heart of Texas Event Center (804 San Angelo Highway) at 6:00 PM on Thursday, September 20, 2012.

All the citizens of Brady, including City officials, are welcome to come and take their turn at the microphone.

No one knows how it will turn out. The result could be anything from echos in an empty meeting room to more people with something to say than there is time to listen. As with all first efforts, it will be imperfect, and an important learning experience.

The overriding theme is that we want to listen and learn, not preach and promote.

The people moderating the meeting will spend no more than ten minutes talking. They will lay out some ground rules and introduce a few suggested topics. Then the microphone will be turned over to anyone who has something to say about the issues facing City Government in Brady. The plan is to stay until everyone has a chance to say their piece, no matter how long it takes. If that proves impossible, we will schedule another meeting soon.

Simple Ground Rules:

  • Respect others. If you want others to respectfully listen to what you have to say, you will have to respectfully listen to what they have to say.
  • Stick to principles and Issues. Avoid talking about people and personalities.
  • Be considerate of others who may want to talk.  Think about what you want to say beforehand, be brief and hope others do the same.
  • There are no scheduled speakers or "ringers". The microphone will pass to whoever is next - First come, First served.


Because there is a time deadline coming next week, we would like to hear what you have to say about the petition to force the City of Brady to hold an election before borrowing money with Certificates of Obligation first.

After everyone has had their say on the petition, the meeting will be open for citizens to bring up any topic pertaining to City Government they want. These could include utility distribution charges, overall city spending or specific city policies or projects.

The primary purpose of this meeting is to let You, the people of Brady speak and be heard by your fellow citizens.

If you have questions, we will try to answer them if you want us to. Bear in mind that this puts us in the position of talking instead of listening. If you would rather hear more from other people in the audience, write your questions down and put them in the Questions box at the back. Include some way for us to contact you. One of the BBN volunteers will do their best to answer them directly or in the next meeting.

Sense and Nonsense Is dedicated to providing the information, ideas and interaction necessary to build a community of people who can be trusted and who trust each other.