The Coleman Dilemma

The agony and the ecstasy spawned by the current redistricting dustup on the Beaumont City Council is an unfortunate turn of events that didn’t have to happen – but it did. At first blush, it appeared the attempt by Ward 1 Councilmember Alan Coleman to remove a key precinct from Ward 2 Councilmember Mike Getz’s district was a political jab at Getz, the newest member of council who has expressed some contrarian views on a body that prefers to display external harmony. Before his election to fill the unexpired term of Nancy Beaulieu, Getz had been a leader in the movement to alter the way trustees are elected in the Beaumont Independent School District – and as an attorney had challenged some of the district’s more outlandish stunts in court.

Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that the focus of this move is Coleman, not Getz. Motivated by a politician’s keen instinct for survival, Coleman is seeking to use redistricting to make his ward whiter and more affluent by shifting minorities and lower income citizens to adjoining wards. Since joining council in 2007, Coleman has grown increasingly isolated from his core constituents.

Although city government is officially non-partisan, Coleman touts his Republican credentials at every turn – but his actions are at odds with the conservative principles he claims to hold.

Coleman led the move to spend $3,700 on a bronze plaque at the Sewer Lift Station that features his name with those of other officials, and took a prominent role to spend more than $300,000 to install bathrooms at the lightly used Amtrak platform off 11th Street. Coleman’s advocacy of making the city noise ordinance even more restrictive displayed open hostility toward small businessmen including Marvin Atwood, whose Starvin’ Marvin’s restaurant is threatened by this action.

Newcomers to the city who see Coleman at council meetings in his white coat might think he was a physician who came straight from the hospital to tend to the people’s business. In fact he is a dentist unlikely to face any emergency more pressing than a root canal. The real pain comes from citizens forced to endure Coleman’s relentless self-promotion and his transparent attempts to use his position to reward friends and punish enemies. Fortunately, the checks and balances in the city charter and the watchful eyes of his fellow elected officials have prevented any lasting damage to date.

Coleman’s naked ambition and clumsy attempts at political manipulation through the redistricting process appear doomed to failure if the turnout at the public hearing on July 17 is an indication. After a large number of citizens spoke out against his map that targeted Getz, Coleman’s response spoke volumes. He didn’t say a word.