The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
It wasn’t so much the words a Port Arthur man used to describe City Council — embarrassing, disrespectful, disappointing, entertaining and even comical— that drew the ire of one Council member, as it was the length of time it took to say them.
Joseph Theall, 85, was the first of two Port Arthur residents calling for better relations and unity among City Council Tuesday during a time designated for citizens to speak.
Theall spoke eloquently for about 20 minutes, imploring the Councilmembers to improve their image and get back to the business of conducting city business, rather than the in-fighting and bickering that has become commonplace of late.
“Every Council member elected individually by citizens of your respective districts, when you took the oath of office, you became a team. Yet, the image you project shows a lack of respect, shows you are argumentative, (you) lack cooperation, are combative, lack unity, and worse of all display the act of character assassination of one another,” Theall said.
At the end of Theall’s discourse, District 5 City Councilman Robert Troy questioned why he was allowed to talk longer than a speakers allotted five minute time period.
Troy said he had seen speakers come to the podium and be held to the five minute time limit allowed, while others were allowed to speak longer.
“This Council should be consistent with everybody that comes up and speaks at the podium,” Troy said.
Timekeeper Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince said she appreciated that Theall took the time to come up and express what she believed was the feelings of many.
“The city of Port Arthur deserves better,” Prince said after Theall concluded his speech. “There is no reason why we should be fighting when conducting business of the city, and I apologize for the behavior of the Council.
After the meeting concluded, Prince said she had difficulty believing Troy had anything negative to say about Theall’s call for unity — even if it did exceed the time limit.
“All that disrespect given to Mr. Theall was unnecessary,” Prince said. “I thought it was totally disrespectful and he owes Mr. Theall an apology. That is barbaric behavior.”
If citizens are interested enough to come to City Council meetings and speak, then they should be given as much time as they need —especially since individual councilmembers routinely exceed the two-minute time limit they are allowed to speak per agenda item.
“He (Troy) has insulted the citizens that come up here to speak. Don’t insult citizens like that, that is their platform,” Prince said. “Mr. Theall was right in everything he said, and Robert Troy was disrespectful.”
Theall said the Council had become the laughingstock of not only the city, but the region, the state, and even into Southwest Louisiana.
The Council’s antics, he said, are off-putting to young people, business and industry.
The Rev. Bishop G.A. Clement Tervalon stood at the podium for the second time in as many weeks to seek unity among the City Council.
Tervalon explained — contrary to what one Council member had alluded — that he had not been coerced by any members of the City Council to come and speak.
He suggested that unless some Council members change their ways, they likely will be defeated when their term is up.
“I detest the spirit of discord, hatred and animosity,” Tervalon said. “I implore you when you come through those doors, leave animosity, all your vindictiveness at the elevator door when you come here.”