San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS

Long shot mayoral candidate Thomas Prentice stole the show at the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors debate on Tuesday, brushing aside questions about development regulations and parks to rail against global warming and capitalism.

Thomas Prentice. PORTRAIT by JOHN ROOF VIA FACEBOOK

Mayor Daniel Guerrero and four candidates seeking two city council seats all played their calibrated roles pretty much as expected. Guerrero and council incumbents Ryan Thomason and Shane Scott made measured, inoffensive cases for continuity; challengers Melissa Derrick and Greg Frank made measured, inoffensive cases for change.

But from his first sentence — the first most people in the room had ever heard from the relative newcomer to San Marcos — it was clear that Prentice does not consider moderation a virtue. The 60-year-old former education professor, who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, seemed to relish the opportunity to speak his version of “truth to power” in the form of a captive audience of developers, real estate agents and their sycophants.

“How many of you want you and your children to have to evacuate to balmy, temperate, sunny, palm tree-dotted Saskatchewan? This is not something that’s going to happen in a hundred or 50 years. It is not something that is going to happen in two years. It’s happening now,” Prentice said, answering moderator Monica McNabb’s first question about development regulations.

In his next breath, he pivoted to another preferred target — the capitalistic system.

“A person who is very cynical about human nature says the only reason the butcher doesn’t sell you bad meat is because its in his interest for you to come back. What kind of commie, pinko, dirty, smelly hippy Marxist said that?” Prentice asked. He paused for a dramatic moment, then answered: “The Scottish capitalist saint Adam Smith.”

A caterer behind the buffet line chuckled a little too loudly and a few people turned to see who it was. But no one seemed too bent out of shape over the candidate’s bombastic oration. In fact, more than a few people seemed delighted by the unexpected excitement.

A few minutes later — this time on a question about parks — Prentice held up a political cartoon that assailed bankers’ role in the 2008 economic collapse. Later, answering a question about the city’s comprehensive master plan, he held up a cover of the Economist that referred to “Banksters.”

“If The Economist, the most pro-capitalistic magazine in the world, is asking questions about ‘banksters’ shouldn’t we be asking questions about bankers?” Prentice asked.

For sure, San Marcos has had more than its fair share of colorful  candidates in the past. But I don’t ever remember anyone so brazenly choosing incitement over electability.

Perhaps owing to our city’s tradition of anything-can-happen politics, the real estate people, and bankers, in attendance at Tuesday’s forum did not appear at all flustered by Prentice’s full-throated criticism of the American Way. They seemed to take it in stride, applauding politely after each answer as they did for all the other candidates.

But with each answer, fewer people applauded. And the glances they cast each over plates of fancy meatloaf incrementally evolved from amused by his antics to irritated by the absurdity of it all.

Therein lies Prentice’s problem.

If he intends to ignore every issue actually relevant to the office he is seeking — and use the platform of a campaign solely to pontificate on world events — the act will quickly wear thin even with those who appreciate his perspective. But if he re-calibrates, if he tracks toward the measured and inoffensive, there will be nothing to distinguish him from the crowd.

One suspects Prentice fears continued obscurity more than he fears anything else. More so, even, than rising sea levels and bourgeois butchers peddling tainted beef.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are transcribing the full audio of the debate and expect to have it posted in a day or so. CORRECTION: This story originally said Prentice is a former political science professor. He is a former curriculum and instruction assistant professor at what was then Southwest Texas State. This story also originally said he is 52; he is 60.


Listen

This is raw audio from the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors’ debate.

The first file is opening statements from Mayor Daniel Guerrero and opponent Thomas Prentice; Place 5 council member Ryan Thomason and write-in opponent Melissa Derrick; and Place 6 council member Shane Scott and opponent Greg Frank. Then Hays County commissioners Will Conley and Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe jump in to make statements.

The second file is of San Marcos candidates answering the moderator’s prepared questions followed by their closing remarks. Part of the first question is cut off but it is repeated later in the audio for each candidate.

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17 thoughts on “Brad Rollins’ Blog: Now for something completely different

  1. Interesting, but I suspect the transcript of the debate would have sufficed and made the same point.

    I may be the minority, but I’m just looking for the facts. Entertaining observations about any of those who are offering to volunteer their time for the city, just leave me cold.

    Far from the harshest piece you’ve done, but still not anything I want to encourage.

    Thanks for the audio.

  2. I hope it doesn’t come across as harsh at all. I’m fascinated by this apparently gravely ill man running a quixotic mayoral campaign on his own terms, throwing all convention out the window. It’s not meant to be political commentary but a human piece.

  3. Maybe it is just your “voice” as a writer. Maybe it is me. This is what jumped out at me…

    Bombastic:

    high-sounding; high-flown; inflated; pretentious.

    Antics:

    1, Usually, antics.
    a. a playful trick or prank; caper.
    b. a grotesque, fantastic, or ludicrous gesture, act, or posture.

    2. Archaic .
    a. an actor in a grotesque or ridiculous presentation.
    b. a buffoon; clown.

    Absurd:

    utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false: an absurd explanation.

    “One suspects Prentice fears continued obscurity more than he fears anything else.” I read this as he is just in it for attention. Do I misunderstand your statement?

  4. I meant it more in the vein of:

    Do not go gentle into that good night/
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light

  5. Brad,
    Do you need a video shooter/editor for future debates? Have camera, software and skills. I can shoot it and post it to my site, or do so for this paper. Thanks for the updates. Many did not know about the debate, even those “in the know.”
    Best, LMC

  6. But I can see how this piece falls short of conveying all that underlies it. It’s a blog post, not an opus. We have an interview with Mr Prentice scheduled for tomorrow.

  7. It just strikes me, more and more, that if Jesus showed up and decided to run, someone would drag him through the mud. At the local level, it really bothers me, because I live with these people, even the ones I don’t agree with.

    Like I said, it’s not the harshest piece, and I’m sure I brought my own “sensitivities” to the analysis. I just think that in a community of 50,000 people (or less) we ought to be able to be respectful of all of our neighbors.

    I’ll leave it at that, before I go off on my own tangential rant.

  8. As a man of about Mr. Prentice’s age I can identify with any fears of countinued obscurtiy that he might have. I thought the piece was well written and I suspect Mr. Prentice anticipated worse taunting. It’s a blog. And like Zach, I wish I was there.

  9. I am sure I would have expected worse taunting. I’m just not especially cool with it. I once was. I used to love skewering people. I don’t know what changed my mind. I can think of a couple of people, who took a decidedly different approach, who are sadly no longer with us. Maybe that’s what did it.

    It may be a fruitless effort, but that’s where I’m at. I think the single greatest thing we could do for this community, is make treating others the way we would want to be treated (or would want our mothers and fathers to be treated, or our children to be treated), our first priority.

    Again, not the worst I’ve seen, but I still feel compelled to ask for better.

  10. I sure wish there was a posting or a better heads up of these functions. Yesterday was a BIG one…I wish I could have seen the look on the Capital Mongers on San Marcos when this gentleman was speaking such truths…

  11. Could be that being closer to the end he has seen that it’s better to speak that which one really believes. Death bed confession concept.

    Or, it could be he believes in the concept of thinking globally and acting locally.

    Refreshing, either way. Pointless, but refreshing.\\

    And Brad, thanks for the use of sycophant.

  12. We’ve had lots of colorful candidates. The problem is when they are viable, the press in this town either (a) goes after them (b) outfight ignores them. One who “skirted” the razors edge was Web Brannon. There should be a relic of that in Rob’s store. Y’all missed the colorful debates/candidates of the 80’s.

  13. First, I don’t really think this event was open to the public, was it? If so, someone needed to let the public know. The LWV will hold a public debate. I hope the Mercury and Record will cover these, and I wish you Mercury and them Record would endorse candidates. I have exchanged some Facebook comments with Mr. Prentice. He’s smart and interesting. But sometime he will need to address issues easily within the city’s immediate grasp if he’s to be taken seriously.

  14. The University Star also carried a story on this interview. I would encourage all of you to read it.

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