New Belton Council embarks on long process

The process of remaking the feel of Belton city government has officially begun. Gone are the moralistic platitudes mixed with middle school stabs at humor from the Mayor’s chair. Instead, we get as few words as necessary, spoken in the lowest tones, all accompanied by what one presumes to be a silent warning against any thought of nonsense.


Who would’ve thought a tighter, more serious approach would feel refreshing? Well, at this point, it does.

It’s Norm Larkey’s seat on the dais, and as quietly as possible, he has established that fact quickly. Now we get to see where that leads us.


For those that expected changes he decided during the campaign needed to be made – namely a change at City Manager – be patient. He wasn’t coronated King Norm, so he’ll need to have the support of his council for moves like that, and if I know him, a 5-4 majority isn’t going to satisfy him. He’s going to want clear support, and something tells me he’ll eventually get it.


And if not, the old ways will have changed drastically...which was the goal all along, right?

He has already instituted changes that are likely stinging just a bit. One of the issues I’ve had over the course of Alexa Barton’s time in her role is a repeated drive to push legislation through the council as quickly and quietly as possible.


The Charter calls for ordinances to receive two readings at successive meetings for a reason. Councilmembers vote on a first reading, and if the ordinance is passed, it advances to a second reading – but not before the public has had the opportunity to provide feedback and the councilmembers themselves have had the opportunity to consider the decision further.

Under the past administration, it became commonplace for the City Manager and Mayor to place ordinances on the agenda with both readings scheduled for a single meeting. Instead of holding emergency readings to address exceptional situations, the exceptions became the times when ordinances actually were spread out over two meetings.


Eventually, the public saw through all that, and Ward 1 Councilmember Dave Clark responded by questioning the need for double readings.


Under Larkey, it appears now that items will appear on the agenda as “first reading only” items and the City Manager will have ask the Council’s permission to grant an emergency second reading.


What a novel idea. Apparently the City Manager will answer to the council instead of the other way around? We’ll see how that works.


Getting back to Tuesday, two items got pushed through on an emergency basis, and both for solid reasons having to do with construction timing.


But the decision to do so was prefaced by an explanation and request for permission instead of a roadmap of what was expected.


That’s just one visible item. Mind you, we still have a City Manager that expects to be notified by Police and Fire administration anytime I call for routine information, which I have done as little of as possible over the last few months.


If I thought for one moment that the result of that demand would be a smoother, more streamlined and open path for information to the public, I’d be all for it.


If I thought that.