Leander City Council

Glimmer of civility returning despite divisive Leander Council meeting

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The Leander City Council saw another disruptive meeting last week. Council members and citizens shouted and hurled divisive criticism at each other, continuing the partisan trend that has embroiled  Leander and Cedar Park for months.

The disruptive behavior ranged from testy exchanges between Leander Mayor Troy Hill and audience members, and sniping between Council members Christine Sederquist and Marci Cannon. 

The most dramatic incident was Council member Jason Shaw's personal attack on Leander resident Carl Norman, a frequent critic of the council who spoke against the council's proposal to impose restrictions on citizen comments.

"You can throw whatever mud you want to at me. Bring it!" Shaw said. "I can assure you I've been through a lot more than you can dish out Mr. Norman."

Notably, Shaw's outburst came in the middle of his efforts to call out both sides for causing harm to the city by caring more about partisan bickering than the good of Leander. 

"There's disingenuous, dishonest people all the way around," he said. "I remember a time when telling a lie used to be a character flaw. Now, it's par for the course. Until everyone grows up and starts having honest conversations, this is insane all the way around."

Following the meeting, Shaw said he deeply regrets targeting Norman specifically when his anger was directed at both sides. He acknowledged it was counterproductive and said it would never happen again. 

Norman noted on social media Shaw sent him an email apologizing, which he has accepted. 

Despite the incidents, the meeting showed glimmers of hope that civility could return as several council members and citizens made a significant effort to reach across the aisle to highlight commonalities. 

Both sides particularly bonded during the meeting over their mutual admiration for two young women from Leander who addressed their government for the first time - Katherine Retzer, who petitioned the council to change city regulations so Little Free Libraries could be built close to streets, and Kalia Handy Bosma, who urged the council to consider using sub-irrigated planters to make the city more water efficient and help save money.

Leander resident Tegan Retzer, a frequently critic of Hill and the council, spoke about forgoing her planned statements to the council in favor of being more "open-minded" about hearing the other side out. Instead, she spoke about her pride in her daughter, Katherine, deciding to address the council about something she was passionate about.

Leander resident Amy Dark also said she chose to use her time to  acknowledge the difficult job the council faces each week. 

"I wanted to take my time today to say 'Thank you.' I don't always agree with your policy choices. I don't agree with many of you on social or political issues. But, I do think each of you have the best interest of our city at heart. I think each of you want to make the city a better place," Dark said. 

Council member Chris Czernek expressed optimism at the end of the meeting that civility could return to the meetings if each side remains willing to listen to the other side.

Council member Jason Shaw summed up his feelings by saying, "Some form of civility has to return. It has to. And it's up to all of us."

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