Marshall Wins Texas Municipal League Excellence Award

Click here to see a video of the presentation

[Marshall, Texas] The 2020 Texas Municipal League Municipal (TML) Excellence Awards seeks out merit annually in five categories: City Spirit, management innovations, communication programs, public safety, and public works.  An independent panel of judges with considerable municipal government experience reviewed all applications on the innovation, achievement of the goal, long-term value to the city, and the project utilized in other cities.

On October 14, 2020, TML hosted the Opening Ceremony to their 2020 Virtual Annual Conference. Mayor Brown and a small group of city employees viewed the announcement of the City of Marshall taking home the state-wide 2020 TML Excellence Award for City Spirit with a population under 25,000. The award highlights any citywide effort to address a city need and supported by broad-based city efforts. In 2020, TML recognized the historic restoration of Memorial City Hall Performance Center.

In 1907, Marshall City Hall was an architectural wonder designed by Page Brothers of Austin, Texas, and built by J.H. Reddick of Fort Smith, Arkansas, for $42,000. According to the Texas Historical Commission, the building “is an excellent example of an early 20th century Italian Renaissance Revival government building.”  Due to faulty wiring beneath the stage, a massive fire swept through the building on November 4, 1923.  It would take a bond issue and five years before the building would stand again. Since World War I had recently ended, the Marshall City Commissioners renamed the building “Memorial City Hall.” They dedicated the four-story building to those who served in World War I.

With the city’s growth, Commissioners recognized the need for more space for the Police Department, Fire Department, and City Hall. Following the relocation of these departments in 1994 to more spacious buildings coupled with the completion of a modern convention center near significant thoroughfares and local hotels, Memorial City Hall eventually fell into disrepair.

City leaders and community members recognized Memorial City Hall could once again have a role in daily community life. Under the direction of the City Commission, city management, and city committees, a funding plan used significant community donations, HOT funds, and multiple fundraisers. Today, Memorial City Hall is an ornate and historically accurate 552-seat auditorium with meeting spaces and conference rooms.

A partnership developed between the City of Marshall and the Harrison County Historical Museum for a new museum within the Memorial City Hall Performance Center. The museum’s 2,900 square foot “Service and Sacrifice: Harrison County at War” exhibit uses the museum’s collection to tell the vivid stories of Harrison County residents who served in the military and the support they received at home. The museum exhibit spans from the Texas Revolution to the Wars on Terror. The exhibit’s masterpiece is a dog tag chandelier in the entryway to the building to honor those who have served.

For over a century, this building has been known by several names, faced complete demolition in a fire, and been rebuild to stand over historical events. With the recent preservation, Memorial City Hall Performance Center is again here to serve our citizens and visitors as a vibrant expression of our arts community in downtown Marshall for current and future generations.

““We have been able to take a project that early on experienced some challenges, made some tough decisions, pushed a little and ultimately complete it in a relatively short amount of time. It is now an award-winning effort that will now be an asset for residents and visitors alike for years to come,” shared City Manager Mark Rohr.

GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK.  CLICK ON “COMMENT” TO TELL US WHAT YOU THINK or use one of the alternative methods for providing feedback.

click here to CLOSE THIS PAGE

Letter To The Editor

To the Editor:

In the upcoming election, city voters will be asked to vote on referendums A through Q Referendum A is renewal of the current street maintenance tax, which provides a needed source of funds for street maintenance. Referendum proposals B through Q are amendments to the city charter. Each referendum item is carefully worded to encourage and lead the voter into voting yes, by presenting the item with favorable language, and doesn’t completely or fully explain the consequences if passed.  

I’ll be the first to admit that our current charter is dated and needs improvement, or even replacement, and proposals B and C are improvements to the current charter. However, the charter revisions proposed, D through Q, are not what we need. 

The Charter to the city, is like the Constitution to the U.S. The Charter is our city’s most important document. It sets forth how our government works, and establishes how city government operates and is managed. It basically authorizes and governs how essential city services are provided, such as how police and fire protection, ambulance, water, and sewer, streets, parks, zoning and other ordinances are managed and funded through fees and taxation.

More importantly, the Charter sets forth how the elected governing body (commissioners or council members) and city management interact. The purpose of the city commission (city council) is to serve as a legislative body and to exercise oversight of city government.

This is why I, along with others, have strong reservations about the charter amendment proposals.  It’s not just what the proposed charter amendments say, but also what they don’t say, and what hasn’t been plainly told to the public.

Much of the amended charter defers to what is allowed by state law, which can be very liberal in terms of what is permitted. This is so that home rule cities, like Marshall, can adopt their own guidelines and criteria of what is permissible.

In this case, the referendum amendments essentially create a strong city manager – weak council form of governance, and eliminate certain checks and balances in our current charter. Our current charter has a commission – city manager form of governance, with greater oversight authority resting in the commission, and therefore citizen voters. This leads to more transparency and accountability, an important check and balance on city governance.

Below are a few key points of concern that I have with the charter amendment proposals. My concerns are based upon experience and problems encountered in serving twelve years as a mayor and commissioner.

1.  The new charter amendments change the city form of organization from a commission to a city council. In so doing, it unnecessarily takes away some of the oversight functions, and limits the authority of the newly formed city council. 

2.  Under the present charter, department heads are hired by the city manager, with the consent of the city commission. Under the new charter amendments, consent of the council is not required. This eliminates a key oversight function that voters expect of their elected officials. Under the proposed amendments, this important check and balance is eliminated.

3.  Under our present charter and by precedent and tradition, the city secretary and finance director are one and the same, and are hired by the commission. Under the new proposed charter amendments, the city secretary is hired by the council, and the finance director is hired by the city manager, without approval of the council. This means all financial information presented to council and to the public, will flow through the filter of the city manager. This presents an untenable situation in terms of oversight, transparency and accountability. Under the proposed amendments, this important check and balance is eliminated.

4. Under the proposed amended charter, the public will expect the elected council to be able to exercise fiscal and managerial oversight of the city, but the council will not have the direct authority to effectively exercise that oversight. And, with a non-cooperative city management, council members would essentially be relegated only to the limited and untimely type of information they could get through a FOIA request.

5.  The term limits of city council members will change from two years to four years. This is bad, because too often members of the commission pass through office unqualified for the position, or simply aren’t interested in investing the time required to make good decisions. Four years is too long for them to hold office. Our present charter limits them to two years. Further, the proposed amendments undo the eight year term limits imposed by voters, and restarts the eight year term limits for every sitting commissioner. Those who are about to be term limited, will get another eight year run on the council.

6. The new charter proposals permit the filling of vacancies on the commission by appointment of the commission, in lieu of waiting for a special election to fill the vacancy. This politicizes the appointment of council members, – something our present charter doesn’t permit. 

7. The proposed amendments have a newly added feature. It provides for removal of a commissioner for unexcused absences. We’ve never had a problem with multiple absences, unless it involved a health issue. This provision is overreaching and harsh for a part time unpaid office. It politicizes determination of what is an excused absence, by giving the council the power to remove a council member on subjective grounds as to what is excused, and appoint a successor without benefit of a public election, effectively thwarting a previous public election.

8. The proposed charter amendments give broad authority to the new council to create debt, and levy any associated tax or fee increases, without voter approval – eliminating another important check and balance.

9.  The new charter removes commission oversight authority of the police department, and places it solely under the city manager’s oversight. In the past we had a police investigation being stifled by city management, which never would have come to light but for the police chief’s ability under the current charter to bring it to the attention of the commission, without fear of losing his job. Under the proposed amendments, this important check and balance is eliminated.  

10. For ordinances, including changes in zoning ordinances, the time for public notice is shortened. Ordinances will be passed on the first reading instead of the currently required second reading. Second readings are usually two weeks later, giving more time for public awareness and response. Under the proposed amendments, this important check and balance is eliminated.

There is a difference between micromanaging and exercising simple oversight. These are some of the key points, which I feel make this a bad charter, in terms of the council’s ability to exercise adequate oversight, and to hold government accountable to the voters. We need to scrap these proposals, go back and invest the time, with qualified charter commission members, to carefully and thoughtfully write a new charter. 

Vote “No” D through Q.

In the meantime – an old charter is better than a bad charter. 


Ed Smith

Former mayor and commissioner

GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK.  CLICK ON “COMMENT” TO TELL US WHAT YOU THINK or use one of the alternative methods for providing feedback.

click here to CLOSE THIS PAGE


October 14, 2020

Harrison County has 12 new cases, Gregg has 16 and Smith 18. 

From the MNM: Marshall Independent School District reported one new COVID-19 cases, on Tuesday, at David Crockett Elementary School. The school district also saw an additional recovery, which was at Marshall High School. David Weaver, MISD public information officer, said the district now has a total of 13 active cases.


1. SURVIVAL ON SURFACES While respiratory transmission is generally understood to be the primary driver of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study published in the journal Virology has raised new concerns for fomite transmission. Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness analyzed the survival of SARS-CoV-2 virus on various surfaces under controlled laboratory conditions. They found wide variations in survival time based on surface type and temperature. Most notably, infectious virus survived on glass, stainless steel, and paper and polymer bank notes (ie, paper currency) for at least 28 days at 20°C (68°F). In contrast, viable virus was detected on cotton cloth after only 14 days. As temperature increased, the survival time of infectious virus decreased. At 40°C (104°F), infectious virus lasted less than 24 hours on cotton and less than 48 hours on all other surfaces.
The researchers inoculated the surfaces using a viral load and fluid matrix designed to mimic a typical COVID-19 patient. Humidity remained relatively standard at 40-50% during the tests, and the experiment was conducted in darkness to negate the effect of UV light, which can kill the virus. While the study illustrated that SARS-CoV-2 could potentially survive on surfaces for longer than previously thought, it is important to note that these standardized conditions do not necessarily represent real-world conditions. Additionally, the virus titer did reduce by 50% on all surfaces within 3 days and by 90% on all surfaces within 10 days, which illustrates that fomite transmission risk decreases over time, even without effective disinfection practices.

‘What are we so afraid of?’
(J. Harris: A Dallas story, but it could have been from any city in the world. Of course, it couldn’t  happen to me and mine?)

WHAT ABOUT LEGAL LIABILITY AND COVID?J. Harris: Perhaps some of our readers with a legal background might have something to say about this or have some references. Some of the athletes entertaining in vacuous stadiums full of paper dolls are on display in order for their sponsoring organizations to make money from broadcasts. Even at the High School level players are likely to become ill and to spread the virus to their teammates with whom they are in close physical contact. They will also inevitably spread , to their classmates and families and communities. Statistically, a small percentage of these sick athletes will develop chronic maladies and symptoms, including heart disease. Should these “exploited victims”  consider litigation in the future? Will they?

Of course, they will.

It’s hard to sue public and state schools, but not private schools,  professional teams, and the various athletic associations, organizations, and leagues.  As I understand it, the concept of sovereign immunity does not protect officials if they are  “negligent.” So, if I make my employees play football, or take dictation, or take out the trash under unsafe conditions, am I negligent?

A very good lawyer explains it like this: “State, municipalities, school districts, state agencies all are immune from liability. They can be sued only where they have consented (by statute) to be sued. The simple answer is that the likelihood of any lawsuits against any state entity is virtually zero.  … there is virtually no danger to private businesses either.  Even if negligent, the plaintiff must prove causation and there is no way a person can prove where the virus he is infected by came from.”(J. Harris: Perhaps with the ability to track different mutant strains, viral tracing and liability could evolve as an interesting study.)


GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK.  CLICK ON “COMMENT” TO TELL US WHAT YOU THINK or use one of the alternative methods for providing feedback.

click here to CLOSE THIS PAGE