The Squamata Report: Wichita Falls elects a new Mayor

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Wichita Falls elects a new Mayor

I was born in a midsize north Texas town named Wichita Falls. The town derived it's name from the Choctaw Indians who held original claim to the land. The name " Wia Chitoh," means " Big Arbor" indicative of the village arbors of the day.
It was a small Anglo-settlement in the 1860's that spanned 640 acres. John A. Scott was rumored to have won the land in a poker game. The arrival of rail roads from Fort Worth and Denver added commerce and industry and before you knew it, Wichita Falls was a thriving city with a
population of 104,197 .

In 1986 the city built a monument in the form of a Water falls to represent it's name sake.

Wichita Falls thrived despite set backs such as the April 10th 1979 Tornados that ravaged the area. Forty-two people were killed and more than 1,700 injured. More than 3,000 homes were destroyed and 20,000 people left homeless.

Despite many storms, the town has prevailed.
There however have been strong political winds blowing lately that threaten to dismantle the city from inside out.

In September of '04 the Police Chief Ken Coughlin got into a dispute with the City over training regulations.The Mayor, Bill Altman, soon joined in and the feathers flew. Soon, Coughlin had fought enough and he turned in his Badge.

He stormed out of the of the Police Headquarters and held a rally outside. It was there that they decided to begin a petition to recall Mayor Altman.

A man named, Terry Huff ,who won 20 million dollars in a 1995 Texas Lottery, became a pseudo political activist. He drafted the petition to recall the mayor, and had little trouble getting the signatures needed.

The problem is Mayor Altman was not a bad Mayor. He certainly was no Grey Davis, Gavin Newsome or
Columbus, Ohio Mayor Mike Coleman . Most folks I spoke to that voted to oust him did not think he was a bad Mayor. As a matter of a fact most people who had voted against him, did so just because they were asked to.

"I don't know much about the Mayor," said a lady I spoke to about the recall. " I just know he is smug and he lets the City Manager ( Jim Berzina) and Director OAS (Jan Stricklin) make his decisions for him." One man appeared on the local news and said he was mad at him because he had made requests of the mayor and never saw results." I had a great plan.... and Altman never acted on it."

The recall vote was final last month and Altman was recalled 7,119 to 3,445. The problem is that not only a small percentage of the voters are required to recall a city official, ( a minority rule) but in this instance, it was found that many of the signatures to oust him were not only of people who did not vote for the mayor in the last election, but had not voted at all.

To recall city officials it takes at least 20% of the voters who participated in the prior election and 10% of those have to have voted 'for' the official. the voters that ousted Altman fell short of that requirement, but it passed anyway!

It was said best by interim Mayor A.B. Williams, " We've always had a pocket of discontented antigovernment people...... They'll vote somebody out just because they think it can be done."

The flame did not stop with the Mayor, Soon Stricklin and Berzina were forced into retirement by the City council. Attacks on other officials soon followed.
"I may be one of the last happy city employees left." said Fire Chief Harold Lindsey, just before he retired.

Wichita Falls voted to elect new City officials on Saturday April 7th. The new mayor is Lanham Lyne. He will serve the UNEXPIRED ONE YEAR TERM and then will be up for re-election in '06.

Why don't we have more stringent rules regarding the recall of city officials? I could get behind the recall of a Mayor if he had poorly managed funds or broken laws and regulations. However, that is not the case here. When a small percentage is required to unseat America's city officials, we run the risk of relegating control to the minority NOT the majority. The Liberal Democrat minority in our society have been fighting to hold positions of power over the Republican Majority. Is that a Democracy? Don't give me the 'checks and balances' non-sense either. No checks and balances in a Representative republic allows for a minority to call the shots over the clear majority. When 20% of the voters can overturn the decision of a 50% plus majority, the minority's power is being respected not the majority!

I am supporting our new short term Mayor. I hope that the city can find cohesion after this political disaster. Wichita Falls deserves strong leadership, but I am concerned that it is the small activist groups that will drive Mayor Lyne's actions. Do you think he can take a strong stand on anything when he has these minority factions holding recall over his head? I don't think so. It is imperative that we change the recall laws of Wichita Falls and let the leaders lead. To those who moan and cry about their voice not being listened to, I say, " SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN!!!! "

As a voter, I helped to elect Lanham Lyne, it is my right to see him make the decisions I perceived him to have the ability to make.
No one man or faction has the right to make suggestions to a city official and demand they be followed. We chose a leader, shut up and let him lead. If you want to voice your opinion, do it. Just don't expect every thing you suggest to be implemented. We did not elect you, we elected Mr. Lyne.
You can find results of the entire election
More info about Wichita HERE
Please let me know how you feel about this, what similar problems have you seen in your home town, and what do you think should be done to stop it? Comment below.

Are recall laws too laxed?
I really don't have an opinion.
I didn't understand the question, could you ask it again real slow?

Free polls from


Anonymous Eric said...

Altman wasnt the worst mayor for wichita falls but he was a bad one. He was not running the city Jim Berzina and janet stricklin pulled all of altman string and he let them. So this is why he was sent on his marry way. why pay someone to do a job that they dont do. Now I agree that we as a city didnt turn out for the vote like we should have but of those 3445. A couple of Ryes And Putnams turned out to pull this man out of office. Altan was on his second term in office. On this second term he had no one to run against so he won by default.

Blogger Ken said...

Thanks Eric.
Yes I know that the fam believed that he should go, and I belive I would have voted against himin the coming election. However, my point is not whether or not Altman should have been replaced but that the idea of recalls is unconstitutional and rapes the public's right to elect an official and have him and him alone fill that space until the following election. Do you agree that having less votes overturn an election than voted in it in the first place is wrong? Did you see that arguement in the post? Besides, the recall passed even though the mandated % of votes were not achieved and the actual number of voters who had not voted in the standard election that voted 'ILLEGALLY' in the recall is absurd. That is what I disagree with.
WWWWWHO's With Me!!!??


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