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Other viewpoints should matter

We’re beginning to wonder if Denton city boards and commissions have any real value. There was a time when the members of such boards were trusted to advise the mayor and City Council on key issues and make recommendations that carried weight.

The recommendations from those on boards and commissions may not have always jibed with the opinions of council members, but that was the point — board members served by virtue of their expertise and provided objective guidance for the city.

Now, however, it appears that City Council members may no longer be interested in viewpoints other than their own.

For example, on Wednesday night, the Denton Planning and Zoning Commission ceded its territory in rewriting the city’s natural gas drilling and production ordinance to the City Council.

In a 6-1 vote, the commission acquiesced to a staff recommendation that the draft rewrites go ahead to the City Council for more work, rather than be continued with the commission. The recommendation came following a two-hour discussion behind closed doors, despite a posting that the third draft of the rewrites would be discussed in a workshop.

Apparently, the situation is nothing new. Commissioner Devin Taylor said the P&Z hasn’t “been directing the process for the last month.”

The council’s lack of regard for P&Z input on any issue would be worrisome, but we find its attitude about this specific topic to be particularly alarming. Again and again, residents have emphasized their concerns about the city’s natural gas drilling and production ordinance — we can think of few issues in recent months that have drawn as much interest.

Yet, it now appears that council members intend to sidestep any additional discussion or input and do what they want. How does this speak to resident involvement and participation? After being told that their input was valued and would be considered, what are residents supposed to think about their role in the process now?

If the council is ready to cut off input from members of the Planning and Zoning Commission on such a key issue, then why should taxpayers believe that their viewpoints will carry any weight?

In our view, city leaders run the risk of taking Denton backward. Are they interested in encouraging growth and progress, or will we soon be saddled with nothing but watered-down advisory boards and commissions?

What kind of signal will that send to businesses that consider locating here? How long will it be before businesses begin to ignore Denton and look elsewhere to find a receptive climate for their investments — taking jobs and prosperity with them?