Ron Wall lives outside the Stephenville city limits - and he adamantly believes improvements should be made to the Stephenville Senior Citizens Center.
City Council member Mark Murphy lives inside the city limits - and he believes Stephenville residents should have “total say-so in construction or remodeling of facilities they will have to pay for.”
Murphy felt so strongly after reading a newspaper article detailing Wall’s Senior Citizens Center efforts that he fired off a “Letter to the Editor.”
That letter, in turn, prompted Wall to send a follow-up article - entitled “A View For Democracy” - to the newspaper Friday.
“These comments were not directed at Mr. Wall, though his article did prompt me to say what was on my mind,” Murphy said in an e-mail response Friday. “He is a well-spoken individual who, I’m sure, means well and wants the best for our area as do I.
“However,” Murphy said, “he is not a city resident and will not be voting for all the items he proposes unless he moves into town.”
Wall, on the other hand, said that while he wasn’t mentioned by name in Murphy’s letter, “it was clearly aimed at me.”
In a letter crafted by Wall and signed by 33 senior citizens, the Wall-led group made it clear it wants the existing Senior Citizens Center downtown to be improved and that it doen’t want the “seniors” to be moved to and included in a new community center.
“His (Murphy’s) apparent thought was that if we ‘shoot the messenger,’ the opinion of seniors about this will no longer exist,” Wall said. “His single-mindedness on this matter stood out like a ‘sore thumb.’ To quote him, ‘This city is on the verge of something wonderful and we need to stay focused and get it done.’
“This statement appears to indicate that the City Council is way down the road in thinking and planning about this new facility. ‘What meat doth Caesar eat’ that he should command the citizenry to ‘stay focused?’ Focused on what? Does (the) council member feel the tenants of democracy and freedom of speech get thrown out because some might disagree with his view.”
“Democracy is based on participation of the citizens by voting and speaking out,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he hopes the residents of Stephenville will continue to participate.
Wall estimated the city could fix up the Senior Citizens Center for $300,000 or so.
“I’m not sure where Mr. Wall gets his figures on costs, but I can’t say whether they are accurate or not because I am not an architect or engineer,” Murphy said. “I appreciate his opinions and input, as I appreciate many others. My point is that the citizens of Stephenville will decide what we do. Those folks put me in office and can take me out if they don’t think I'm doing a good job. These are the folks I will listen to most.
“I still recommend that county residents talk to their (county) commissioners. Any facilities we build or reconstruct will be that much better with larger participation. We are on the verge of something wonderful for this city and area. I could care less if my name is on a plaque there or not.”
Wall, meanwhile, said Murphy’s primary argument for “discrediting me” was “taxes” and that Murphy further states that if non-city residents want to have a say in what the city does, then they should pay their “fair share.”
“The council member should have done a little research,” Wall said. “I pay twice the taxes the council member pays — on rental property I have in town. Further research would have enlightened him to the fact that some of the houses were in terrible disrepair when I purchased them. One was occupied by a pedophile and drug dealer. The folks on Green Street (an area where I own four houses) have often expressed their thanks for the renovations and improvements that I have done in the area.
“I do appreciate that he pays taxes on his rental property in town,” Murphy said. “All I have is my homestead and a modest one at that.”
Wall continued, saying, “as long as we are in the area of who does what. How many meals has the council member provided - at his personal expense - to the seniors? How many appliances has the council member purchased and put at the (Senior Citizens ) Center because the junk the city provides does not work? How many fresh vegetables has he grown and freely given to the Senior Citizens?”
DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.