Look, we’re all new to this thing. This is the first home rule commission in Texas history. So, when certain members of us saw the rather boring first-meeting agenda and therefore decided to just watch the streaming video (just like with a DISD board meeting), only to realize the commission meeting won’t be live-streamed … let’s just give those unnamed people a pass.
Luckily (for those previously described, unidentified idiots), as you can see from this video, the meeting are being recorded and then later put on YouTube. So I spent time the past day and half watching the meeting so you can have some hot sport takes on what it all means. Bottom line: Not much! But here are the bullets anyhoo:
• The main takeaway is that Bob Weiss, who was voted permanent commission head honcho, will be effective chairman. He has it: That mix of calmness and authority that allows him to control the room in non-threatening way. He’s friendly but firm. He sets rules but he’s not a slave to them. He keep allows for discourse but keeps things moving along when the comments or questions threaten to derail the meeting.
• For an example of this, watch the video from the five-minute mark to about 12:30. There you will see what I like to call “Ranger vortex”: That is when a Ranger (recent board member Carla, or her appointment to this commission, her husband Marcus) begin asking questions or making statements that “deeply concern” only said Ranger representative. This often leads to the Blowhard Effect (sometimes locally referred to as a “Ranger Vortex”), an actual gravitational collapse in the room’s center that sucks in all nearby wills to live. To escape it, board presidents or commission chairmen must fire explosive devices into its maw to free the room from its pull before it’s too late. Weiss barely did so in time. It looked something like this.
• Other than that, Ranger was fairly benign. (Although in manner, he is spitting image of his wife.) One stop-down of his did intrigue me. Most of the meeting was taken up with the DISD lawyers and Texas education expert David Thompson giving the commission an overview of open meetings laws, the state education code, etc. At one point, Ranger started asking if the commission could decide to tape record closed session meetings instead of just provide a written agenda for them. Why? Because, according to the example he gave, “If a court subpoenas that document [the closed session agenda], there’s no information there.” So, you say? He’s just for transparency. Well, sure, maybe. Consider me suspicious, though. I think this means, “Hey, how can AFT or my wife sue to find out what is said in closed session unless we have a record of what was said?” Maybe I’m wrong, though. It has happened.
• About the lawyers: They are just great. I’ve watched them for several meetings now, and DISD’s attorneys (Leticia McGowan does most of the talking) and David Thompson (the outside attorney hired to advise) are both patient and smart as they come. Thompson in particular has some sort of down-home, laconic Jedi mind-trick thing where he can talk about the most boring minutia imaginable and still make it interesting.
• If you’re looking for signs as to what home rule opponents may argue next, however, I think you see them in the audience tittering that goes on when Thompson repeatedly reminds the board that he is only there to advise and answer questions, not to tell them what to do. I think there will be an attempt to argue that Thompson, who was hired by the board to help the commission with any legal questions it has, is at least indirectly influencing the commission — and that it is in some way helping the board have indirect authority over the commission, since the board hired him. This is silly. The board had long discussions about whether it a) was allowed to and b) should provide legal counsel to the commission. The answer is OF COURSE IT SHOULD. And Thompson is THE education guy in the state. No one knows more about education finance laws in Texas, and almost no one knows as much about the education code in general. His service is INVALUABLE. But look out for suggestions to the contrary.
• The commission hasn’t yet decided when it will meet next. This is a big deal, because I have vacation planned. In fact, this Saturday’s DISD school board meeting for 9 freaking a.m. has already caused great consternation in the Learning Curve home office, because now I can’t take someone to the airport as promised, and this has set forth a series of unfortunate discussions that … but I digress. Let’s just say, home rule commission, you’re on notice: Let’s get these things on the calendar. UPDATE: I just noticed that this Saturday’s school board meeting (the one where they’re supposed to start discussing Mike Miles’ contract) has been canceled. [BIG SIGH OF RELIEF.] Further updates as events warrant.