Archived Story

Stiehm, Clennon spar at council retreat

Published 10:04am Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marian Clennon feels like the odd city council member out.

“We have seven council members, and I don’t know if anyone else feels excluded, but I sure do,” Clennon said Tuesday at the second night of the Austin City Council retreat.

The comment spurred a wave of criticism from Mayor Tom Stiehm and an at-times tense discussion among the whole council.

Council members were having a conversation about their organizational values, one of which is to work as a team and make decisions collectively, when Clennon first mentioned feeling excluded. She said she wants to see the group employ more teamwork in 2012; however, Stiehm said he thinks Clennon excludes herself by voting against the group and disagreeing with the majority’s viewpoints.

“My concerns are when you bring up an idea and the rest of the group doesn’t accept it, then you shut down everything,” Stiehm said. “There’s just no consistency. It’s not that you vote against it, it’s the rationale that you use for voting against it.”

Other council members chimed in to clarify some of the points. Council member-at-large Janet Anderson said Clennon could voice her reasoning for voting against something, which might sway some of the other council members.

Jeff Austin agreed, saying it’s hard to understand where Clennon is coming from sometimes.

“A lot of times, you vote no and we have no understanding. If you’d express your opinion, we’d have more of an appreciation for where you’re coming from or why you’re voting no,” Austin said. “Don’t expect us to understand, and don’t expect us to sway to your opinion (if you don’t give reasoning).”

Stiehm said Clennon’s alleged lack of consistency is part of why he hasn’t appointed her to many committees, although she has asked several times to be more active on committees.

“You want to overturn basically everything we’re doing … and I don’t need someone on committees that’s saying, ‘We need to do everything different,’” Stiehm said.

Clennon disagreed, though, and said she is entitled to her opinion and her vote. Diverse views are important to foster fresh ideas, she said.

“I have my own personal opinions on things, and I’m allowed to do that,” she said. “I would like to have a diverse knowledge of what’s going on. I would want to change committees every two years to see something different.”

Clennon said many of her dissenting votes have been cast because of feedback from her constituents. However, Stiehm said he assumed Clennon cast dissenting votes if the majority of the council had previously disagreed with her ideas on the topic up for a vote.

“My assumption was because we didn’t accept your ideas immediately, you weren’t going to vote for it,” he said. “We have to retain the ability to work together when somebody votes against you on something.”

Stiehm, who had taken an argumentative tone, went on to say Clennon turns council issues into something personal.

“I’ve seen you disrespect people more than you’ve been disrespected,” he said. “That’s what I’ve seen, and I know I’m not by myself. It seems like you make everything personal.”

The conversation came to a seemingly abrupt end soon after council member Steve King jumped in to say Clennon simply has a different style than some of the other council members.

King told Clennon nobody means to exclude her, and part of the council divide is likely caused by a difference in leadership styles.

Stiehm wrapped up the conversation by vowing to make an effort to be more inclusive.

“We will make an effort. Everybody can make an effort to be more inclusive,” he said. “I know I can do better.”

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  • hartman

    OK Rhino I am waiting your opinion on this one.

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    • Rhino


      walkthewalk says it pretty good… he chooses better words then me…

      bottom line…. there have been a lot of bad decisions made for this city with Stiehm at the wheel…. granted the council votes on it, but you can’t tell me he doesn’t throw his weight around… no pun intended…. Clennon doesn’t get included because she does go against the grain and doesn’t ask how high when tommy says jump… she looks for every way possible to do something besides the easiest way like the majority of the council does.

      Stiehm says he can do better, I think we have saw his best.

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      • hartman

        Thanks and I KNEW I could count on you about this one and TOTALLY agree!!!

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  • ChicagoStyle

    Step in line with the majority. We don’t have room for any free thinkers in Austin. Can’t you see the great job Steihm and his lackies have done for this city. They know what is best. Stop being the bump in the road to their success.

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  • walkthewalk

    Very interesting……So, sounds like if you don’t agree with Tom and his “followers” you do not belong on the city council??? I thought we elected these people to represent the citizens of Austin not to be a rubber stamp or “Stepford” council member for the mayor. The voters decide and the next election will give voters a chance to elect those who they think would be the best mayor for the citizens. Just wondering Tom…..perhaps you did not like Ms. Clennon running against you for the mayor’s position and you just might hold a tiny grudge????? Everyone WILL watch ALL the other council members, their voting and conduct to see if the are “free thinkers” or simply sheep following the easy route. The politics in Austin are reminding me more and more of Chicago-Style politics where most of the important decussions and decisions are made outside of meetings over a drink. Hang in there Ms. Clennon, you just keep doing the best job and people will notice.

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  • Handyman

    *Clennon turns to Stiehm and says “You want me to be more like you? Fine!” Clennon then procedes to tear the sleves off her shirt before giving an interview to the T.V. media.*

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    • Hootch

      Comfortable Austin groups, committees what have you never like the boat rocked. I think Marian better represents the unrepresented in these groups than does seteham. Having witnessed setddhm’s terms I would never allow him to lead me or any group I was part of. Once you’re an outcast in these little cliques there’s always a smoldering undercurrent of hate.

      Strong words ? maybe…. but certain leaders try to cast people in the light of idiots so they don’t have to work to understand them.

      I am 100% positive when I say this…… Marian Clennon would listen to anyone with an open mind…… your present mayor has very selective hearing and even more personal motivation/agenda behind it. It’s a damn shame Austin can’t find an intelligent qualified person to do the job.

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  • factchecker

    Obviously Stiehm has a control issue…everybody do and say as I do…or else! I agree, I don’t think he liked it that Ms Clennon had the courage to run against & almost beat him in the last election…good for her!

    I think we are tired of the “good o’l boys” network that we have here in Austin. How dare someone question the Mayor or the City Engineer?

    And talk about being disrespectful…I have seen more than once Mayor Stiehm be disrespectful & talk down & try to stifle residents at meetings.

    In Stiehm’s quote by the Herald…”and I don’t need someone on committees that’s saying, ‘We need to do everything different,’” Stiehm said. So in other words just be a sheep & do what I WANT.

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  • formeraustinian

    @ walkthewalk – What makes you think those types of politics are only in Chicago – Got news for you it’s that way all over. 95% of the decisions are made before the vote is ever taken and I’m not just talking Austin City Council here. That’s just one of the problems with this wonderful system we have and it starts at the city level and goes all the way to federal!! This certainly sounds like a personal issue for Steihm – can’t stand the heat? Maybe it’s time to step down Tom!!!

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    • Hootch

      His problem is he can’t fool the people who know him.

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      • eastsider

        I agree that it is good to have a variety of opinions on the council.

        The problem is, no one can understand what Marian’s opinion is. She refuses to explain. As soon as someone disagrees with even a small part of what she is saying she clams up. It is 100% her way, or the highway, there is no compromise possible.

        Please, someone find for me a record of a reasoned argument that she has made about anything.

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  • K-Man

    What I find amazing is that our city voted to extend the mayoral term! What kind of idiocy is this?!? We need as short of terms as possible as most of the time the mayor doesn’t follow through on anything they say they will. The citizens of Austin should have wised up before voting on that!

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    • factchecker

      AMEN to that “K-Man” to the fact that a 4 year term was voted in. WHY?? The way I look at it, if someone is doing a good job then they shouldn’t be afraid of two year terms. Mayor Stiehm rallied hard for the 4 year term limit…hmmm.

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  • whalesmn

    I’d have to agree with eastsider on this one. My impression of her is that she’s kind of flaky. Remember when she lost the mayor’s race to Steihm by, what was it, like 1600 votes or something and then demanded a recount? Are you kidding me?! I think she ended up paying for it herself, but that’s a little strange when it wasn’t even close. Also, whenever the council votes to approve anything, you know if there’s one or two people against it almost for sure one of them will be Marion. She always offers the caveat that she didn’t have enough information or understanding of the issue to enable her to vote yes. Why does everyone else seem to have enough understanding or info, but not her?? Do yourself a favor Austin, and vote her out of office next time around.

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    • Buckstorm

      Stienm is far from perfect and maybe he has control issues and I think Austin needs a mayor that can at least dress like a mayor, but Clennon needs to step up and take responsibility for her own actions or lack of. Clennon has alienated herself from the rest of the council because she can’t make a decision or votes no on an issue, because doesn’t have enough information. She can’t verbalize her thoughts or opinions, because she often says she doesn’t have enough information to make a decision (but she still has an opinion), but my inside source tells me she doesn’t do her homework, research the issues or seek out someone who can get her the information she needs. Very frustrating for all the council members. You don’t earn respect of your peers by not being prepared.

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  • RJ

    For a good picture of what is happening at our city council meetings please go to the related posts above number 2. On Dec. 6 Judy Enright had three levy cutting proposals. Roger Boughton also had a proposal to eliminate the $140,000. contingency fund–no one would second his motion. When it came to vote: Steve King was absent, Janet Anderson, Jeff Austin, and Brian McAlister voted yes for the 13% levy to pass–Judy Enright, Marion Clennon, and Roger Boughton voted no—so to break the tie, the mayor voted yes to pass it. At least three of the 6 tried to help out the citizens of Austin to curb the tax hike. The voting seems to go along these lines over most voting. Enright, Boughton, and Clennon you have my vote come election time.

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    • eastsider

      How does spending the contingency fund (savings account) down or voting for a smaller levy save tax payer dollars? They wanted to play a shell game, because they know some voters fall for that. The only way to save tax dollars is to spend less, and none of them came up with substantial cuts. Just more kick the can down the road politics.

      Spending your savings account is still spending…no?

      Suppose they had spent the contingency fund and then something came up where we really needed the money. Who here would not lambast those same council members for poor planning?

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  • whatsup

    hmmmmmm. I read the (City Council Outlines 2012 Priorities), Establish an informal process to gain citizen input..WHAT????? It sounds like unless you agree to the mayor 150% of the time you won’t be given any input on the current council. Continuously review budget to find efficiencies…WHAT???? I read the Dec. 6 city council meeting noted above in the related stories and it seemed like Judy and Roger tried to do this and were ignored but now they are willing to review the budgets??? Has something really changed from Dec. 6 or is this just more lip service?????

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  • scottb

    Maybe a campaign to vote them both out should be started.

    “Heck no, Y’all got to go!” Can be the slogan.

    This really won’t get better. Now that it’s even more public, it will just linger like a bad wound. They’ll disagree on a topic, and the disagreement becomes the story instead of whatever they were debating.

    Someone should do a FOIA request on the emails of all the council members relating to either one of these two to see if there’s any other hidden bad blood.

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  • cooper

    It sure sounds like to me that the mayor is telling her that she had better back him or she will never get included in the commitees. Keep up the good work. Go get them Clennon.

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