[lg policy] M-C Council establishes new fire department, social media policy

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Apr 14 10:48:10 EDT 2018


M-C Council establishes new fire department, social media policy

   - Landon Fisher | Herald-Banner Staff
   - Apr 13, 2018
   -

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The McLendon-Chisholm City Council met Tuesday night for its first April
regular session, most notably acting to formally establish a
McLendon-Chisholm Fire Rescue Department, and to name Jim Simmons as the
city’s new Fire Marshal.

Mayor Robert Steinhagen introduced the topic by giving a brief recount of
the progression of contracts between the city and the McLendon-Chisholm
Volunteer Fire Department over the last several years, leading up to the
late 2017 dispute between the city and MCVFD over a contract for fire
services to the city.

Steinhagen also referenced the last several months of negotiations between
the city and MCVFD, stating that the MCVFD’s negotiators “engaged in shell
game tactics,” never intending to reach an equitable agreement for the
city’s fire protection, something that those negotiators, John Crumpley and
Mark Kipphut, have vehemently denied.

Simmons is a veteran of several area fire departments, including experience
with his “family business,” the North Texas Fire Academy.

“I’ve had numerous discussions with Mr. Simmons,” said place 2 Councilman
Scott Turnbull, “and he’s been very forthcoming about what we can and can
not do. He has experience setting up departments, and we’ll be using him to
help set up our municipal department here.”

“The (Emergency Services) committee is still deciding what to do,” said
Steinhagen. “While fees were increasing exponentially over the last several
years, no studies have been done as to why. It’s unfortunate that there’s
so much misinformation.

It’s sickening that people are playing politics with our public safety.”

The mayor’s comments come in response to the last several months of vocal
opposition from a number of community members who insist that the citizens
of McLendon-Chisholm do not want the current fire services to change, and
that the city-conducted survey which seemed to convey the opposite was
intentionally unclear in its wording so as to direct results.

Steinhagen’s opponent in he upcoming May election, Keith Short of the Royse
City Police Department, spoke to the council at the start of the meeting
saying “Every one of you should be ashamed to be on that side (of the
dais), because you’ve shown utter disrespect to us as citizens of this
community, from the eye rolls to the smirks to the way you bait people into
saying things, unintentional or not.”

“You give partial information that looks good, but doesn’t give the whole
story, and it’s disgusting,” Short added. “And then you wonder why people
are so upset with you on social media.”

The city also introduced a new “social media policy,” explained by
Councilwoman Balkum (place 4) to include specifications that comments and
posts on the city Facebook page are considered public records and may be
treated as such, in accordance with the Texas Open Information Act.

The new policy also includes provisions that allow for the page’s
administrators to police content, removing comments and potentially
blocking users who violate the policy.

“Content which may be removed is profane language or content, or
discourteous communication including personal attacks on an individual’s
character or appearance,” Balkum read from the policy, which also prohibits
language denigrating others on the basis of any legally protected classes.

Many McLendon-Chisholm citizens have voiced their concern that this amounts
to an effective limitation on their freedom to criticize elected officials
on a publicly-run Facebook page, with no real structure for the
adjudication of any violations of the policy.

The policy also prohibits commenters on the city page from promoting
specific political candidates, which seems incongruous with a post on the
city Facebook page, dated April 9, linking to Steinhagen’s “State of the
City” address two weeks ago, which McLendon-Chisholm resident and vocal
opponent of the mayor and council, Rob Quinn, described as a “glorified
campaign speech.”

Related to the new social media policy, the council voted to allocate $995
for record keeping of the city’s social media platforms, in accordance with
state guidelines.

Steinhagen and the council remain the subject of an active investigation by
the Rockwall County Sheriff’s Department related to allegations of
violating the Texas Open Meetings Act, related to the fire services dispute
and other actions in the last year.

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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