Beware of falsehoods at election time

Published 1:31 pm Monday, March 11, 2019

Port Arthur has been prone to be a hotbed of negative attacks on political candidates seeking office. Some attacks are taken to the edge of libelous.

My mind goes back to the 2016 mayoral race in which Derrick Freeman, now mayor, came under attack by his opponent and those that supported his opponent.

The basis of the attack was to make voters think Freeman was under investigation by the District Attorney’s office in Beaumont, that an indictment was imminent. Yes, it was all false, but some people believed it.

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The Port Arthur News contacted DA Bob Wortham’s office and found these accusations were blatantly false. We reported this information on the front page just before the election. Freeman won.

This time around, the Port Arthur mayoral race attracted five candidates. There are a lot of emotions in each of us this election year due to poor City Council decisions, tardy disaster recovery and lack of transparency at the city level. That’s why so many candidates will be on the May 4 ballot.

As we progress through this election, I expect there will be a number of attacks on Freeman, especially with this list of candidates. There is no love lost for some of them.

With election time is upon us, some individuals are sitting back, awaiting an incident to pop up so they can use it to their advantage or to the advantage of the candidate they support.

Most recently, attention was given to an incident that supposedly happened at Mardi Gras last Saturday. Here’s the skinny, per social media and other blogging sites.

Apparently the mayor arrived at City Hall to attend the Mardi Gras celebration Saturday night. When arriving at City Hall, he planned on parking in the “Reserved Parking Mayor” spot. The sign does not give times and days of week this is enforced because the mayor position and responsibilities are full time. He is on call 24/7.

Most people, when they see a reserved parking sign, park elsewhere else. I do. And there just so happened to be available parking up and down Fourth Street. After finishing my parade ride Saturday night, we drove down Fourth Street and there was quite a bit of parking available. So did the individual have to park in the Mayor’s spot? It didn’t look like that was the only spot left.

Let’s put it this way: If it were me that parked in the mayor’s spot, he would have the right to have my car towed, at my expense. It would have been my fault.

The social media story suggests the mayor blew a fuse during the process. Well, I’m going to have to see video of this, because I have only seen him get upset once. And that was at City Council, after former City Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis verbally attacked him. Freeman handled things professionally but also very directly. And he was justified in doing so.

There may be others on council that I suspect blow a fuse here and there. The mayor? I have to question that one.

The online blog reported their version of the story this way: “We are told that the conduct was so unreal by the Mayor that it bordered on the misuse of office. And the cops are not happy because of fear or retribution towards them by the Mayor!”

Well, also not true. I visited with three different Port Arthur police officers since, at three different levels of rank, and all denied this 100 percent.

Freeman has done a great job on City Council dialing down the previous years of constant battle between councilmembers. He runs a good meeting and doesn’t lose hit temper. That’s why the above accusations are suspect to me. It will need to be proven, and should be, not just with hearsay spread across social media for political reasons.

I’m not saying that an incident didn’t happen that led to the towing of a vehicle. What I am saying is it’s up to each of us to do our own investigation on issues and candidates. Don’t just believe what social media or so-called “investigative” bloggers share or state is true, when it may not be.

Citizens will see much more of this type of stuff over the next few months. The closer the election, the more attacks will be spread.

We do need things to improve for all citizens, but the right way, with the right people. It’s your community. Ask questions. Stay informed. And be prepared to vote.


Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.