By Johnnie Belle Reagan
On May 4th 2019 the City of Palestine concluded its local election for Mayor and two Council seats. Three candidates ran for Mayor. The Candidates existed of a local resident, a retired Police Officer and the incumbent, a Totalitarian Shoe-in. The total number of votes cast in a city of over 9,000 registered voters was a dismal 1,138. When 3 candidates run for the same seat on the City Council to win the candidate must receive one half of the total votes cast. For this election, the votes needed to win were a minimum of 569. Incumbent Steve Presley was re-elected with 610 votes. The winning amount was only 41 votes past the need for a run-off between Presley and retired Police Officer A.D. Ethridge.
Amazing that so few votes can make such a difference. In small town elections with low voter turnout a vote not cast severely stifles change. Although, even with a better turnout the election still may not have gone any other way due to the smear campaign launched against A.D. Ethridge the day before final votes were casts. Sources have accused Steve Presley Mayor along with Jeff Garritt Editor, Jake Mienk Publisher and William Patrick Reporter of the Palestine Herald Press of conspiring to run an extremely negative article against Presley’s challenger. The Palestine two-step to be a “shoe in” as Mayor.
Step one: appeared to be a smear to sway votes away from A.D. Ethridge by painting him as anti-law enforcement. During a meeting with the Police Association Ethridge made a comment that the Palestine Police Department was hiring substandard Officers. On May 3rd one day before the last day to vote May 4th the Palestine Herald Press ran an article with the headline “Police Association accuses Ethridge of fear-mongering”. If the truth was to be told Mr. Ethridge had very good reason to say and believe his comment. Just one week after the election it was reported that a Palestine Police officer was being charged with rape. There are also currently two civil rights violation cases filed against Palestine Police Officers. And according to anonymous messages sent to TPC there may be plenty more to investigate and write about from the bottom to the top of the Palestine Police Department.
Step two: just in case step one doesn’t work, buy a little insurance. It might appear to be an effort to increase your voter base when you giving out gift packages to City Employees days before the Election. Then a trip down to the local church and with a little help from the Pastor you can offer a ride to the polling locations and then a parting cash gift. What makes it even sadder is the statement to TPC made by local resident, that is the way it has always been done. The next statement is nothing can be done, you can’t prove it. Hinting that another seat on the Council was helped in this same manner. Note to the wise; better be paying enough to keep it quiet.
The incident with Palestine Herald Press and A.D. Ethridge ended up not being the only attempt to influence the local elections. The seat for District 4 on the Palestine City Council is also up for election and it too had 3 candidates. Running for re-election was incumbent Joe Baxter with challengers Joseph Thompson who previously served on city council and newcomer Grizelda Castillo. When the election results were announced on May 4th the District 4 race ended in an exact tie between Baxter and Thompson. The runoff election is set for Saturday May 8th. Unfortunately for Mr. Baxter who’s his first name was changed to Joseph in a recent article by Palestine Herald Press. Was it a mistake? Was it intentional to repeatedly refer to Joe as Joseph over and over? Based on what has been reported about the Mayor’s election, it could be convenient mistake or underhanded at a minimum. Joseph Thompson showed from his pervious stint on City Council to be a friend of the Mayor Presley’s agendas and policies. Obviously, he would be preferred over Joe Baxter who has been a challenger rather than the “Yes” man.
It can’t be said enough that while Palestine struggles to grow the bad politics and City leadership will never change if concerned citizens don’t go to the polls and vote. Steve Presley is getting voted in by the same 600 residents.
If you keep letting bad seeds like Presley run your community City of Palestine, you will continue to reap the rewards of friends getting special treatment, wasted city funds, mismanaged financials, bad roads and water, unlawful lawsuits and conflicts of interests. Conflicts like the City of Palestine supporting the Chamber of Commerce with $40,000 in tax money yearly then allowing its President Jake Mienk, who just so happens to be the Publisher of the Palestine Herald Press, run a story that intent could be interpreted as to changed the outcome of an election.
The residents of Palestine are being deprived of good old fashion news reporting. The one good thing that can be said about bullshit in general is that eventually it will dry up enough to stop stinking. Palestine, you can’t say that about your water.
Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts, perhaps the fear of a loss of power. – John Steinbeck
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