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Nugent dispute leads to call for mayor to resign

By Richard Yeakley
March 27, 2014 at 10 p.m.

Concerns about the city's mid-February <a href="" target="_blank">cancellation of negotiations with rocker Ted Nugent</a> for the city's July fourth celebration came to a head Thursday as Longview residents packed City Council chambers to ask for more information.

Comments ranged from calling for the resignation of the mayor and city manager to the termination of employees responsible for the discussions to hire Nugent, while others offered support for the city and its processes.

The crowd filled the chamber hall and overflowed into the lobby of the Jo Ann Metcalf Municipal Building.

"I am not really concerned about Ted Nugent … I don't listen to the radio," said Jim Martin, who called for Mayor Jay Dean's resignation. "What I am concerned about is the tax payers' $16,000. That is money that in my opinion is wasted."

Dean and City Manager David Willard flatly rejected the notion of resignation, and Dean defended upper level city staff's behavior in the much-discussed actions that came to light last week.

The turmoil centered around the city's <a href="" target="_blank">$16,250 payout to Ted Nugent's booking agent</a> to cancel negotiations after it became known by the city managers office that the group vetting acts had focused on bringing the controversial rocker.

"As mayor of all of you, I want to start off by making an apology to the community. Things that have taken place were never the intentions of the City Council and the city of Longview," Dean said.

"Unfortunately, due to inexperience and lack of communication, some of our staff members were very unaware of entertainment contracts as acts were being vetted in order to consider being invited over to our Fourth of July celebration."

City officials said there a number of reasons the city <a href="" target="_blank">chose to end negotiations with Nugent,</a> including that his show would not meet the family friendly atmosphere the city hoped to cultivate with the Fireworks and Freedom Celebration.

Nugent stirred up controversy before joining a mid-February campaign swing with Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, when he called President Barack Obama <a href="" target="_blank">a "subhuman mongrel."</a>

Those comments as well as some of Nugent's song lyrics were cited as reasons for the city's decision.

Dean said he agrees with the decision.

"This particular act was very polarizing to our community as was evidenced by the amount of ... emails, text messages, phone calls I have received where half of the people think we made the right decision and half of the people think to make the poor decision," Dean said.

But the about 10 speakers focused on the processes that allowed the city to progress to focusing on Nugent as a headliner and the cost of the cancellation.

"I have never held down a job where I can make a $16,000 mistake where I can live there and stay working there," said Kathy Somer. "To squander that kind of money is horrible."

The controversy also drew familiar faces to the council chambers.

One speaker said the problem had more to do with city leadership than with Nugent himself.

"The problem is that people in the city of Longview, people in leadership positions, felt that it was OK to invite somebody like Ted Nugent to this city for a city-wide celebration," Steve Crane said.

He also drew a stark comparison to the money spent in ending negotiations.

"That is more money than one minimum wage worker earns in 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year ... That is a lot of money," he said.

Vik Verma, who said he represented the Unity and Diversity Committee, said Longview's culture is wrong if "the selection of Ted Nugent to perform at the city Fourth of July celebration was acceptable and even desired by some."

Branden Johnson, president of the Longview NAACP, said the group planned to hold symposiums to encouraged "the ignored to get involved with this governmental process."

"The hope of diversity under the current Longview administration appears anecdotal," Johnson said.

Others' voiced support for Nugent.

Bishop L. J. Guillory, who said he investigates situations at municipalities across the state, praised the city.

"I think you are all doing an exemplary job at resolving the situation. When you can take lemons and make lemonade, you are doing something right," he said.

Dean told residents he would make the decision to scuttle negotiations again.

"I apologize ... that we got ourselves to the point of having to make that decision, but if it was to do over again I would make the same decision because I believe it was the right decision," Dean said.



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