HOLFORD: It’s about character — not raceWill Holford has both covered and worked for state government and had one foray in a politics, as an employee, not a candidate.

People never cease to amaze me. I have been following the saga of Odessa Councilman Malcolm Hamilton for a few weeks in the Odessa American and on its Facebook page. Hamilton’s actions are amazing enough. But what really surprised me are people’s comments about Hamilton and the OA’s coverage of his taxpayer-funded trip to Minneapolis and his antics, caught on video, during a traffic stop by the Odessa Police Department.
A large number of comments lumped Hamilton in with all council members as “crooks” and said they should all be investigated or “fired.”
Crooks, huh? Here’s the thing about elections and elected officials, you and your neighbors, at least those few of you who went to the polls on election day, hired these so-called crooks. If all elected officials are crooks, then isn’t it the people who voted that enable their crookedness? And if you didn’t vote, don’t complain about the quality of your elected officials.
Who, by the way, are not all crooks.
I have known or currently know dozens of elected officials. I’ve covered several as a journalist and worked for a couple of Texas Comptrollers. Most of them are good people who serve the public well. Some have been spectacular, a few have been lacking. They’re not all the same and should be judged individually, not collectively.
Regarding firing all the so-called crooks. Friends, elections are job interviews and you are the ones who hire and fire. Surprisingly few people turn out to vote during local and county elections. There are typically four years between elections, and it’s difficult to remove someone from office. Once a candidate has won, he or she will make important decisions that will impact you for years to come. So you need to know as much as you can about the person for whom you’re voting.
That’s where the Odessa American and all media outlets come in. It’s the media’s responsibility to report on the actions of government bodies, such as city councils, county commissioners’ courts, school boards, state legislatures and congress. It’s the media’s responsibility to investigate and report on abuses of power and negligence by elected officials and government employees. It’s the media’s responsibility to inform you about abuses of power they find so you can hold candidates and elected officials accountable, especially when you go to the polls.
That’s why I was surprised by many comments on the OA’s Facebook page chastising the paper for picking on poor Hamilton. Comments that implored Hamilton to resign because the OA would not let up on him, so the only way to end his misery would be to resign. Or criticized the OA for writing another story on Hamilton. Or claimed the only reason anyone cared about what Hamilton had done was because he is African-American.
Are you kidding me? First, darn right the OA is picking on Hamilton, if that’s what you call fair and accurate reporting of facts. And it should continue to do so until Hamilton is no longer a public official or has stopped acting like a jerk and trying to abuse his power as a councilman.
Second, oh yeah, by all means, call on Hamilton to resign because the OA would continue to pick on him, not because of his apparent misuse of taxpayer funds and verbal assault on Odessa police officers during what was ruled a valid traffic stop. That makes a lot of sense.
Third, and finally, what does being African-American have to do with taking a 12-day, taxpayer-funded trip during which only one 75-minute official meeting took place, and berating OPD officers? Newsflash — there are plenty of folks in other ethnic groups who do that and worse. And there are more than plenty of African Americans who would never dream of doing what Hamilton has reportedly done, even on their worst day. One’s race has nothing to do with it. One’s character does.
The bottom line is that the residents in District 1 deserve better from their representative. Hamilton can deliver better. He should start by apologizing for and explaining his behavior. Maybe there is a perfectly understandable reason for it. But his constituents won’t know unless he trusts them enough to tell them. Then they can decide if he should continue to represent them when the next election rolls around.
In the meantime, the Odessa American, other media outlets and his fellow city council members have a responsibility to hold Hamilton accountable for his behavior and actions. Judging by what I’ve seen so far in Hamilton, their work is cut out for them.