A McKinney City Council briefing on the history and public opinion regarding the downtown James W. Throckmorton statue erupted into heated debate between council members Tuesday evening.
Councilman La’Shadion Shemwell called the meeting a “sham” and said the agenda item to hear information on the statue had been changed from an original wording in a draft agenda to hear “and act” on information regarding the statue. The agenda item for the council meeting stated that the City Council would receive and consider the information.
Shemwell accused city officials of trying to “kick this can down the road” and plotting to move the date of deciding on the statue’s fate to a later time so that he would not be able to vote on it. Shemwell’s ability to stay on the City Council is on the November 2020 election ballot for McKinney voters.
At the Tuesday meeting, Mayor George Fuller replied that agenda drafts often undergo changes based on feedback and said changing the wording on the agenda item had nothing to do with Shemwell.
“I don’t want us to try to act on the seat of our pants learning everything we’re going to learn,” Fuller said. “These people in this community put in hours and hours and hours and hours of time, and we’re going to take that information, and by God, as long as I’m mayor, we’re going to make sure that we have the time to deliberate.”
Fuller also said there was no plan to kick the agenda item down the road.
“This has nothing with you being or not being on council,” he told Shemwell. “I have no idea whether you’re going to be on council or not. What I do know is that we are going to do this in a way that, by God, by the end of it, everyone will have had the opportunity to learn, hear, understand and talk civilly about it.”
The discussion lasted roughly 20 minutes and went mostly between Fuller and Shemwell.
In a video posted on social media the next day, Fuller said City Manager Paul Grimes had scheduled regular meetings with each City Council member to allow them to go through agenda drafts. Fuller said Shemwell had not attended the meetings Grimes set up with him and eventually canceled the meetings. Fuller added Shemwell did not know about the agenda item change for Tuesday’s meeting because he had not had his meeting with Grimes.
The argument on Tuesday followed presentations from members of the Throckmorton Statue Ad Hoc Advisory Board representing two opposing views on what the statue’s fate should be. Justin Beller presented a recommendation to move the statue to the Collin County History Museum while Judge Nathan White spoke in favor of keeping the statue where it stands.
Before the presentations, Fuller said the goal of the process was to allow people to get information that they didn’t have and to provide an understanding of both sides.
“So whatever is ultimately decided, hopefully people really listen with an open mind and an open heart to everything that’s about to be said and really try to understand, although ultimately you may not agree with whatever decision the council makes,” Fuller said. “I think it’s important that we went through this process.”