With an important contract between Texas Tech University and LP&L pending Council budget approval, five Lubbock City Council members watched the Texas Tech football team rout Stephen F. Austin University from the Chancellor’s luxury suite at Jones/SBC Stadium on Saturday.
Councilman Victor Hernandez brazenly broadcasted his insider benefits by posting a photo of himself and his wife, Justice of the Peace Aurora Hernandez, as well as his fellow officeholders on his Facebook page during the game. Perhaps there really is a justification for taxpayers paying Victor’s phone bill.
No doubt the Reverend Pastor Councilman Jim Gerlt, who was also present, felt he was in high cotton. Cutting ribbons and rubbing shoulders with the rich and privileged is why he ran for office. Last week allowed him to do both.
Also enjoying the game at Texas Tech’s expense were Council members Floyd Price, Todd Klein and Latrelle Bright Joy. A quorum was present however, unlike the Allison House ribbon cutting earlier in the week, this meeting was not posted on the City Council website.
Absent were Mayor Glen Robertson and Mayor Pro-Tem Karen Gibson. Neither accepted tickets. Sandstorm Scholar contacted Mayor Robertson who offered this comment about his own attendance, “I will not accept football tickets or other subtle bribes.”
It is quite a perk. And, while it might be ethically questionable for Judge Hernandez if any matter involving Texas Tech University does or may come before her court, it is probably perfectly legal for the rest.
But it smells bad. Here’s why: in just a few days the Lubbock City Council is scheduled to approve the budget for Lubbock Power & Light. Part of that budget is an advertising contract between your electric utility and Texas Tech University that, according to our sources, is worth $650,000 over the next five years. Texas Tech, the most aggressive fund raiser in town, wants to ensure that contract is signed.
Smart move for Texas Tech; bad choice for Council members who took the, hmmmm, bait.
Mayor Robertson raised the issue of slashing LP&L’s advertising budget at the last City Council meeting but the idea got no traction with the rest of the Council. Without a motion and a second, an issue cannot be discussed in a City Council meeting. And that was the end of that. After all, members had more important things to attend. Like the first home football game.
Lubbock Power and Light’s advertising budget is a contentious issue. On the one hand, opponents argue that there is no reason for a monopoly to advertise at all. Proponents point out that an electric utility must build to the peak use and advertising that promotes conservation is a legitimate activity. The reader can investigate and decide.
What should not be contentious is whether the citizen owned utility ought to be making charitable donations to Texas Tech University in the form of advertising at the ballgames. There’s no doubt that associating with Texas Tech Athletics is good public relations. Tech Athletics is rapidly recovering its place as the best-loved brand in town.
But Lubbock Power and Light cannot buy goodwill via advertising or brand association. It must earn it by doing the right thing. Council is responsible for LP&L’s public relations train wreck. Hanging out in the Chancellor’s luxury suite and approving big ad contracts with the University is not the way to repair Lubbock Power and Light’s reputation.
When the Lubbock City Council votes on the LP&L budget this week it will be interesting to see if members Hernandez, Price, Klein, Joy or Gerlt question the advertising contract with Texas Tech.