Tyler Paper Tells TML Off

The Texas Municipal League – a tax-financed lobby group that regularly seeks powers to expand the role and size of government – is finding that maybe they’ve stepped too far, as the Tyler Morning Telegraph and other papers beat them about the head and shoulders. TML recently came out against the state’s long-standing open meetings laws, which assign criminal penalties to those that would conduct government business behind closed doors.

It seems the Municipal League and its members — your city council members and mayors — consider the law a chilling effect on their “free speech” rights. As in, their right to speak about government business and make decisions without your input.

TML has long used the funds gathered from taxpayers to lobby against taxpayer interests. They are the best funded lobby in Austin. The hubris of TML and Texas’ cities as grown in proportion to the dollars taken from Texans’ wallets. The organization is seeking to overturn the open meetings laws, presumably so they can be even further shielded from public review and oversight.

Remember, these are the same people working to oppose property tax reform, oppose spending limits, oppose budget transparency, and are for… new taxes and fees.

Now, numerous newspapers around the state have been very comfortable over the years with the tax-funded lobbying. And they certainly haven’t minded pushes for higher taxes and bigger government. But now the newspapers are finding the monster they helped create is turning on them, by seeking to unravel the public’s right to now.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph on Friday came out swinging:

[TML] holds that even public officials have the right to freedom of speech, and requiring them to discuss public business in public is a violation of that right.

Because, you see, good intentions should be enough. Requiring government transparency is simply asking too much.

… And as long as taxpayer money is involved, good intentions aren’t enough.

The newspaper correctly cites some of the abuses of taxpayer-funded lobbying engaged in by the TML.

Their broadside against TML was inspired by a letter written by the organization’s executive director, Frank Sturzl, in which he complained to the state’s cities that newspapers weren’t being fair on the issue of undermining the open meetings laws.

He probably will regret having written: “According to our daily newspapers, local elected officials are guided by such evil tendencies that they can be controlled only by the threat of imprisonment or a few whacks with a stick.”

The “local elected officials” he references sure seem intent on proving the existence of “evil tendencies” in seeking legal changes that would lessen the sunshine on local government in Texas.

It should be noted that Mr. Sturzl didn’t want his letter made public. The missive had this notation affixed: “TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose … No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.”

Remember: his salary, and the salaries of those to whom he sent the letter, is paid for by your tax dollars.

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is the CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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