This article belongs to Off the Cuff column.

Making your voice heard

Most Americans, who do not have political interests or, are not supporting their candidates monetary, seem to fail to realize that they can and should vote on the ‘laws' and ‘Bills' that are up for voter approval in elections.

Last night, I attended a ‘Town Hall Meeting' in which the topic was supposed to have been, and almost was, the ‘cleaning and beautifying' of the Town Square areas that surround the Cleburne 1880s Courthouse building, which has been in the process of restoration for over three years now, with likely another year or two before competition. (Corruption in State building contracts are reserved for another article).


The City Counsel chambers were packed by about 90%. A fairly good turn out, if one considers the history of this small city of 29,000 in north Texas. I have publicly called it, "The town that care forgot." I meant every word of that adage, barrowed from what they used to say about New Orleans.


It was published in local newspapers and on radio, that the public was invited to not only attend, but to make comments and to give ‘input' to everyone there.

I signed up to address the Committee upon entering the Chambers.


The lead speaker was, of course, the City Secretary who announced that public responses would be limited to two minutes.


She spent 35 minutes trying to explain how important it was that everyone, including citizens who did not attend, to step up and ‘pitch in' on helping to make Cleburne a cleaner, and more presentable Town Square area like most of the other, more remarkable, small towns in Texas had become.


Note: Prior to the meeting, I drove slowly around the old courthouse and counted the number of attorney offices verses actual businesses that surround the courthouse, north, south, east and west. The numbers were 95% attorney's offices.


Therefore, I quickly realized that this meeting was to benefit the appearance of attorney's offices and not the businesses that surrounded the courthouse, unlike those other small towns that were reversed in numbers: 90% were businesses, with only a few attorney's offices. That was the BIG difference.


Then there came a ‘show and tell' session by another city worker who waved little plastic signs and told us to take as many as we could and post them at any and every building, telephone pole or glass windows of businesses, to help, "Boost the moral of the citizens."


She talked for about 25 minutes.


Then came time for the ‘public Reponses.'

First up to the forward podium, was the former mayor, one of the richest men in the county, who rambled on for 22 minutes about how many buildings he owned and sold in ‘his' attempts to help beautify the city. He hugged that podium like it was his very own easy chair.


The next speaker was a county commissioner. He, too, spoke from the forward podium that faced the audience, and rambled on for over 15 minutes.


Then an actual citizen in a wheel chair wheeled himself up to the podium and spoke for less than 3 minutes, with the city secretary interrupting him about the 2-minute time limit.


Next came a business owner, the manager of the local Mason Hall, who showed pictures of the cracked sidewalk that was actually in the alleyway. He stood boldly and walked around waving that picture and expressing loudly how they had been trying for three years to get the city to repair that sidewalk, that was actually an alleyway.


The city secretary was going nuts trying to stop him from talking, but he got his word across with the help of another Mason who held up a copy of the same picture, walking up and down the isles, waving the picture like it was a shot of Elvis.


After a few more local citizens tried to speak, the present mayor got up and informed us that the time limits were closing, but not until he put in his 21 minutes of rap that was more or less, patting himself on the back for his many accomplishments.


You should've been there. 


I decided to wear my trademark 1936 Errol Flynn Fedora hat, which I respectfully removed upon entering the Chambers.

My name was third on the list, and they were about to close the meeting.


‘No way, says I.


I first stuck up my right arm up like a school child, as the secretary saw me but shook her head and kept trying to end the meeting. I finally starting waving my cinnamon Fedora hat so vigorously, that I then stood up and raised my voice saying, "I would like my time to address this meeting, since I signed in, or does one have to be a wealthy, former mayor in order to speak at a ‘public,' Town Hall meeting?"

She cowed her small body away as I made my way up to the podium. She directed me to speak at the podium that was way back near the back wall where everyone would've had to turn their heads and cracked their necks to have looked at the speaker, which no one else had used, so why should I?


To cut this article short, I spoke my peace that the meeting was a farce to help promote ‘free help' from the citizens to beautify the attorney offices, and not so much the businesses it was supposed to have represented.


I reminded everyone that Cleburne was the last town in America to have held a ‘public hanging' at the town square, and that the real problem was too much traffic and city employees taking up the parking slots that were designed for the sake of the public to use; not city workers, and that ‘corruption' of the city government was really all I had seen that night.


I got a standing ovation and spoke for 13 minutes, after waving my voter's card and telling the people that that was the ticket to make the needed changes here.


The meeting then officially ended and a herd of elderly people rushed up to me wanting to know who I was and that everything I spoke about was something that they felt someone should have addressed in city government.


The present mayor later came up to me and invited me for coffee as he shook my hand and wrapped his arm around my shoulder like we were war buddies, or, something?


What I am trying to relate here, is that unless you attend these types of town meetings and get out and vote, your city, town, or village will never change for the better. It will only line the pockets of those who know and are banking on the fact that 95% of the public doesn't give one big rat's ass about what goes on in their homes until the taxes come in the mail and they wonder where the hell those taxes came from, and why weren't they told about them?


Get wise: city, town and village governments will do what they want to do, which is usually to line their pockets with YOUR MONEY, unless and until you GET OUT AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND VOTE!!!


That's off the cuff.

I'm John Deeds.