North Texas Daily

Turmoil at Denton City Hall as council races begin

Turmoil at Denton City Hall as council races begin

Turmoil at Denton City Hall as council races begin
January 30
17:41 2016

Jynn Schubert | Staff Writer

@JynnWasHere

District 1 councilman Kevin Roden joined District 4 councilman Joey Hawkins in the hot seat Tuesday as some residents of  Denton’s energy activist wing filed a recall petition to remove the leaders from their respective offices. The city secretary has one week to review the petition.

Many Denton residents are soured about the City Council’s decision to repeal its city-wide ban on hydraulic fracturing, which was contested in 2015 by Texas lawmakers with House Bill 40, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. Hawkins and Roden both voted to repeal the fracking ban – a move some considered a victory for the oil and gas industry – in order to put an end to two lawsuits filed against the city.

The fight to remove Hawkins and Roden overlaps a filling period now open for people wanting to run for City Council in the regularly scheduled election Saturday, May 7. Vote early April 25 through May 3.

hawkins-petition

The petitioners faced backlash from other council members. Some used a Facebook post from Greg Johnson, the at-large Place 6 councilman, that said he hoped “those who are behind it will become so disenfranchised by it that they will move” as evidence some council members were not hearing the people they represent.

“Honestly, the professional thing to do would be either don’t weigh in at all, or run a campaign for Joey,” UNT alumna and petitioner Cindy Spoon said. “[Johnson] is just as entitled to his opinion as we are. But to demonize recall effort like it’s not perfectly apart of the democratic process is really off-putting.”

Hawkins was asked to step down from his position after complaints of not communicating with his constituents and his vote to repeal the ban on fracking since his re-election in May. Hawkins declined to comment for this article.

District 4 resident Theron Palmer, an active protester of fracking in Denton, and his wife Elida Tamez circulated a petition for Hawkins’ recall last fall. The first petition was rejected in November due to technicality.  Denton’s city charter requires that officials be in office for at least six months before a recall petition can be filed; the petitioners filed two days early.

A second petition was then circulated and recognized the following month, forcing the recall election scheduled to take place this May.

“We really thought long and hard about this, because we knew it was going to affect someone in a real and personal way,” Tamez said. “We came up with our list of grievances and we met with Joey personally at our house. He never answered our grievances, and that’s what prompted us to recall.”

Spoon stressed that this is not a personal attack on Hawkins.

“It’s not like we think, ‘Oh, Joey’s a bad guy, we don’t like Joey!’ It’s that we deserve better presentation on our council,” Spoon said. “He ran unopposed, so we didn’t really have a choice. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to think we should get a choice.”

Featured Image: Petition to remove Joey Hawkins from city council. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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