Dictionary.com defines “integrity” as:
Port Arthur’s District 6 representative served but a single City Council term — his seat was eliminated by voter choice — but he lent grace, reason and humility that this governing body sorely needed and — shouldn’t we concede this? — some dash.
Ironically, Swati left public service the same night as Willie “Bae” Lewis, a 23-year councilman whose seat was also eliminated by voter decision.
While Swati left public life reading from an elegant farewell letter, Lewis left with his fingernails scraping his own chair bottom. Like the last toddler in the toy store at lights out, he simply refused to go.
Swati thanked God and the voters for the privilege of serving, humbly extended apologies for anyone he might have offended, offered a heartfelt paean to democracy and praised devoted city workers, staff and his own colleagues for all they do for this beleaguered city. He provided the class in the room.
Lewis, who has threatened court action in clinging to the last vestiges of his political weight, spent his final council meeting dividing the room.
He blamed the former city manager for the destruction of heavy equipment during the 2017 flood. He fumed aloud that there was no storm plan now. He lamented the state of the city, suggesting it might never recover. He offered a cryptic comment about Port Arthur going “to Section 8” and accused the mayor of not doing his own job or knowing how to do it.
The last of these caused the affable mayor, Derrick Freeman, to not only bristle — that was uncharacteristic — but also fire back. That was a bad moment for Lewis.
Freeman recounted in detail that as the city was drowning in 60 inches of rain last August, council members were to meet in an emergency session at City Hall. There, Lewis pitched this single idea as the city sank underwater: Diverting $30,000 of Port Arthur’s public treasure to The Breeze, run by Lewis’ friend, for radio programming.
“The only thing you were worried about was that $30,000,” Freeman recalled, staring straight at Lewis.
We might have hoped for a better farewell for Lewis, at least on his last night as a council member. He never provided leadership but he usually brought the entertainment.
Swati’s farewell letter contained these words, and Port Arthur citizens might take them in more than one way: “This council is a direct product of your vote.” In some cases, it’s a direct product of not voting in Port Arthur, where casting a ballot is rare.
Choosing not to vote is a choice in itself: You still bear consequences. On this night, those consequences were stark:
One guy knew how to leave a room. The other guy was Willie Lewis.
The truth is that Willie Lewis has done little for the city of Port Arthur other than getting city jobs for all his neighbors, friends and relatives. Other than that, he’s been little more than a class clown. Maybe someone in Port Arthur will sadden because of his departure from government, but I’m not one of them. Port Arthur needs, and deserves, better.
So pay close attention to the comments reverberating from the last few paragraphs of the opinion. For instance when Mr. Swati stated, “This council is a direct product of your vote.” And, to which the Port Arthur News added that, “In some cases, it’s a direct product of not voting in Port Arthur, where casting a ballot is rare.” These two statements clearly define what is the cause for many of the problems the city of Port Arthur faces today. Considering that on average, less than 8% of Port Arthur’s registered voters participate in our local elections by casting ballots, our votes (or lack thereof) demonstrate the degree of apathy among city residents.
Basically, if you aren’t willing to participate in our local election process, then you haven’t any right to demean the city of Port Arthur; and, that includes the snide little comments that keep creeping up in social media. Port Arthur needs concerned citizens, and not two-faced cowards to lazy to so much as cast an election ballot. Those who don’t vote also have a little problem with “integrity“, too. They haven’t any!