I got up bright and early this morning to read the local newspapers, a habit of long standing wherever I find myself in the world and newspapers are still available.
The news of course was political, as we might expect two weeks before the November 2 elections. The central local issue concerning the Southwest Texas Municipal Gas Corporation (SWTMGC) which serves the three central Big Bend cities of Alpine, Marfa and Ft. Davis produced little “news” coverage — except in the letters to the editor columns.
Yes, the letters to the editor often bring us news here on the Last Frontier. Sometimes this is due to the indolence of the established newspapers. Sometimes the cause is previous ignorance of the facts or opinions of the letter writers. But sometimes the newspapers suppress a letter because it is repetitive, libelous, unintelligible or boring.
Boring is sometimes used to kill the possibility that continued coverage of an ongoing issue will encourage the latent dissidence of the population. Yes, Virginia, your newspapers are often lackeys for the rich, the powerful, and their designated drones and cronies.
(More of this later, dear readers.)
Today, another specific and detailed letter was published in the Big Bend Sentinel, the Jeff Davis County Mountain Dispatch, La Voz, and, of course, the Nimby News. The letter was authored by Pete Smyke of Alpine, a citizen who has been diligent in exposing the errant conduct of a majority of the (SWTMGC) board of directors for the past five months. Instead, on page D5 of a 28-page weekly newspaper, the Avalanche published a 300-word something called a “staff report” under the headline “in other gas board action.” The “report” appears to be derived from gas board minutes in late September.
There is little or no news in the column. At the best, this is merely lazy journalism. At the worst, the failure to publish Smyke’s letter and the publishing of the cold hash “In other gas board action …” is an indication that the powers-that-be here in the Big Bend have decided there has been enough controversy so far and the cronies must unite to suppress the lethal tendency of seeking truth through dialogue.
But while I am lecturing the Avalanche editor John Dilmore, let me add he has improved the paper in his short tenure here. He is, but the way, the 12th editor, editor-publisher, etc. in my experience since we began publishing the Nimby News in 1988.
November is sometimes a cold month. There are several thousand gas company customers. Many of them are poor. As Smyke has revealed we are all being overcharged for gas. All presumably are concerned about our rotting gas lines. Questions respectfully submitted directly to the board at their meetings, by email, and in letters to the editor, have been ignored with arrogance. (Example below from a longtime and knowledgeable Alpine citizen, NOT Pete Smyke.)
“As a long-time customer of SWTMG, I respectfully request that the agenda for the next scheduled or called meeting of that Board include provision for clarification by Board members of a number of matters/questions raised recently by concerned citizens:
1. What is the justification of the termination of Mr. Davis.
2. What is the basis in Board Bylaws or other legal documents for specific Board members claiming to be managing/overseeing the company in the absence of a designated manager.
3. What is the status of current compliance of SWTMG with safety and certification requirements, if any, of the Texas regulatory agency which oversees this business.
4. What is the explanation for any divergence between the legal Bylaws of SWTMG regarding Board membership and terms of office and the accession to Board membership by current occupants.
5. What is the explanation for the choice of a majority of the Board’s membership to act contrary to the legal advice of the attorney representing the Board.
6. That agenda should also include an item specifically referring to (1) formal Board response to questions raised in recent weeks in local media, some of which are suggested above, and (2) an item specifically providing for additional questions from concerned citizens.
7. If provision is not routinely made for electronic recording of the meeting of the Board, I also request that that be done for this meeting so that a clear account of questions and Board responses will be available to all interested parties.”
Editor’s Note: The SWTMGC board is scheduled to meet October 18.
If the Avalanche will not perform their professional duty to inform the public, we know who will.