Vonciel Hill's Loony Memo to Scott Griggs Versus the Facts on the Ground
Vonciel Hill can snap her fingers and make all this go away? What would that make her?
Here's a nice little moment when the truth comes home to roost: Yesterday Stephen Young shared with you here a memo sent to Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs by council member Vonciel Hill in which Hill basically called a Griggs a liar.
Hill accused Griggs of distorting the facts when Griggs complained that a city contractor had despoiled a pond in the Great Trinity Forest by draining it for cheap construction water. So one elected official calls another one a liar. Big so-what? The thing about a charge like that, however, is that it doesn't just paint Griggs as a liar but also the people who alerted Griggs to the destruction in the first place.
Hill said in her memo that she was "appalled and offended" that Griggs had charged city staff with leaving the small natural forest pond near the Trinity River in Southern Dallas in a diminished condition. So this morning a bunch of environmentalists and activists who first discovered the draining of the pond went back to it on a van tour conducted by city staff.
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Everyone present -- enviro's and city staff alike -- agreed that the pond is still, to borrow a word from a top city staffer, "screwed," no matter what councilperson Hill says about it.
Hill said in her angry memo that "once management realized the error, the error was immediately acknowledged, an apology was issued, the matter self-reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies ... the pond was immediately restored to its original (or better) condition..."
First, I guess it never occurred to Hill that somebody might go look at it. (Big forehead slap: "They actually LOOKED at it? Never saw that one coming.") Second, once you mess up a natural area, there is no such thing as "immediately restored." Ever. You can remediate it to the best of your ability over time, but that takes effort, money and commitment. And the remediated place is never the same.
The water in the pond has come up a bit from its low point right after the contractor got caught pumping water out to use for dust control, but the soil and plant life leading to and surrounding the little pond are still massively disturbed. A creek running nearby is still dammed by the logging road that the contractor bulldozed thorough the forest. Invasive plant species are already marching across the logging road and toward the pond to seize ground once occupied by natives.
Naturalists and stream experts in the group explained to city staff this morning that a violent intrusion into the forest -- a dam, a logging road, plowing up of the pond banks, pumping -- has a violent effect on the entire eco-system surrounding the pond in that part of the forest. Staff listened. But the scary thing was you could tell it was news.
Ben Sandifer, a citizen activist instrumental in holding the city accountable for the damage to the pond, stood a couple yards from the dammed creek and gave the mid-level city staffers present a lecture clearly intended less for them than for council person Hill.
"I read that Judge Hill sent out a memo to Scott Griggs a couple days ago, and it had a bunch of bullet points about how the pond was restored to 'original or better condition.' While the water is up, as you can see the pond is not restored. This whole ecosystem here is damaged."
City staffers nodded in agreement, and one said, "Correct."
"Has she been down here?" Sandifer asked. "Have you all taken her down here on a field trip?"
Staffers consulted busily with each other, asked to make sure he was still talking about Hill, then one said softly, "No."
"My concern," Sandifer said, "is that I want the message of what's actually going on down here to be 100 percent truthful and factual. It's very important that that happens.
"Emails I have sent and a lot of the things I have shown to other people are the truth -- the best I can think is the truth. I would swear on a stack of Bibles that it's the truth. I don't want my message or my name to be muddied in this by politicians taking cheap shots."
There was more mumbling among staff along with assurances that everyone present agreed he had told the truth about the pond. Liz Fernandez, director of Trinity Watershed Management for the city, did her best to placate, assuring Sandifer several times over that city staff had learned a mighty lesson from getting caught over the draining of the pond. In response to questions from Sandifer and others she and other staffers promised a laundry list of steps to be taken in days ahead to restore and protect the pond.
Obviously Hill will never apologize to Griggs for her memo, which was its own laundry list of bogus information and straight-up falsehoods. But is there a chance she might one day apologize to the well-intentioned citizens whom she also slimed with her assertion that no real harm was done?
No. And she won't go look at it, either. Ever. Not how she rolls.
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