Time is a funny thing. Somehow it seems to fly by and stand still at the same time.
It definitely feels that way when you are down in the trenches parenting small children. What is it they say — “The days are long but the years are short?”
That sentiment also rings true in the news business. Every day is different, which is why most journalists love it, but sometimes even those wildly different days can start feeling the same (if that makes sense). We are constantly reporting on new developments from mayors’ offices from across the area, city councils, county commissions, etc., but even though the stories are ever-changing and evolving, they often involve the same players, so it can sometimes feel like we have been reporting on the same people, places, arguments, money woes, unethical and/or crazy politicos, scandals, lawsuits, grudges, open ditches, sewage overflows, flower budgets (looking at you, Fairhope), crumbling sidewalks, proposed bridges or bridges to nowhere for years.
Because we have.
And that has certainly been the case in 2018, as some of the biggest headlines of the year have had a bit of that “same song, second verse” feel. From the fractious relationship between Mobile’s mayor and City Council to a Dullsville race for governor to the political tribalism that has divided this entire nation at every level and of course, Trump, Trump, Trump, it feels like a broken record.
But usually when we start feeling that way, scratches across said records are imminent, and I feel like 2019 is going to provide us with some brand-new tunes.
Before we start looking for next year’s chart toppers, let’s take a look back at some of 2018’s greatest hits.
“You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”
This year definitely marked the end of any love there might have been (emphasis on ANY and MIGHT) between Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the Mobile City Council.
Mayors and councils always squabble. It’s the nature of the beasts. But Stimpson’s predecessor, Mayor Sam Jones, had, as the Beastie Boys would say, such “ill communication” with his council, Stimpson used that to campaign on when he ran against him, promising he would be a much better communicator.
Soon after he was sworn in, Stimpson even removed a door from the mayor’s office to signal how open his administration would be. I’m a sucker for a grand gesture, but as such, when it all falls apart, it makes me more bitterly disappointed than the average Joe-Ann.
And it certainly has been disheartening to watch.
This year, they spent time sparring over Ladd and the USA Stadium, the public works department, the budget and, most recently, who has the power to hire/fire folks, which will have much larger implications once decided but has required legal intervention and multiple outside attorneys, all at our expense.
It seems very clear they are at an impasse on this and no amount of mediation, team-building retreats or singing of “Kumbaya” is going to solve this problem. A judge needs to make a ruling. But the final legal bill on this will no doubt be bile-inducing.
The Mayor says having “better collaboration” with the council will be his No. 1 priority in 2019, so we’ll see. The New Year does always present opportunity for new approaches and change. But it’s politics. And when you have egos involved and power struggles at play, well, that hope usually fades away pretty quickly. But let’s remain optimistic at least until they start going at it again. So, Jan. 3?
Gov. Kay Ivey easily sailed back into the governor’s mansion as predicted, without having to debate her opponents in the primary or general election, lay out her platform or talk much at all to the media. Her only message seemed to be, “Hey, I’m not the creepy Luv Guv and you know I remind you of your Granny on your mama’s side.” And it worked.
But this was particularly disappointing because she had some really solid candidates running against her, especially in the Republican primary. Our own Bill Hightower is quite impressive and has excellent ideas, and I was also impressed with Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, all of whom had really well thought out plans and platforms.
It was probably one of the best fields we have had in years, but sadly, we really didn’t get to kick the tires on them or Democratic nominee Walt Maddox, since she wouldn’t play ball with any of them. Which, after seeing how easily she won, you get exactly why she didn’t. She’s not a particularly good candidate and it only would have hurt her chances, but it still just makes you hate the game. And it just goes to show you even when there is a group of excellent candidates, if you don’t have the machine behind you, like she did, it’s nearly impossible to gain any traction. Yay ‘Merica!
But I am hopeful after her term ends, we will see some of these candidates re-emerge and some new ones, too. New energy and bold leadership is long overdue in Montgomery. But until then, hopefully Granny can at least keep us moving in the right direction.
“I Hate Everything About You”
On the national level, it’s hard to even pick the top story. The Kavanaugh hearings and the Russia probe certainly rank up there, as does the psychological abuse and firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who probably wishes he was still serving as our U.S. senator. But we could all name about 10 more stories that could jockey for the top spot.
Political tribalism has become the dominant force from sea to shining sea. We don’t just disagree with folks we have differing views on anymore, we hate them, we unfriend or block them, and stay far away from them, residing comfortably in our own bubbles with folks we agree with and with whom we can talk sh*t about the other side.
But I do feel like a fatigue with this divisiveness is finally starting to set in. Trump lovers are tired of having to constantly defend him and his Twitter feed and Trump haters are exhausted being constantly exasperated. It really is all just too much and just not sustainable.
But that fatigue makes me hopeful some of this anger and nonsense will start to subside, and we will all realize no one side or person has all the answers, and we are all Americans first, who, for the most part want the same things for our friends, families, children, co-workers and country. We just need to calmly and rationally figure out the way to get there. It can be done.
I feel like 2019 is going to be a very pivotal year for these united states that haven’t felt very united of late. And I pray that pivot is to a much kinder, thoughtful, less reactive and respectful nation.
Thanks for reading and supporting Lagniappe in 2018. I hope we all have a peaceful and prosperous 2019 in this great city, state and country. Even though I just spent 1,163 words complaining about these places, there really is nowhere else on this planet I would rather be. Happy New Year!