Last week, Lagniappe reported on the months-long drama playing out inside the glass walls of Government Plaza and the apparent strained relationship between Mayor Sandy Stimpson and members of the Mobile City Council.
Though the mayor and councilors mostly downplayed the tension as just part of the process, or something all cities struggle with, they did admit there had been some pretty nasty scrapes of late.
The biggest issues have been over Stimpson’s firing of the council’s spokesperson, the failed USA stadium deal and the city’s albatross, the GulfQuest Maritime Museum.
While they agreed they had differences on these issues and blamed most of that tension on lack of communication, they also pointed to successes they had achieved together through compromise, like the Capital Improvement Program.
Success through compromise? Can we get some more of that please?
Compromise, it’s a tricky word. We are raised to never “compromise” our values for anyone or anything. In this vein, the steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said, “The ‘morality of compromise’ sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don’t compromise, it is said, and principles should never be compromised.”
In today’s culture of vicious, red versus blue tribal politics — inside the Beltway at least —compromise is a nastier word than any four-letter combination one could come up with and has even cost some their elections.
But in the real world, and in this city, compromise can and should be a beautiful thing.
That same Carnegie fella also said, “I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle.”
And the greater principle, in this case, is moving this city forward.
Some disagreement is inevitable and even a healthy part of democracy, but it can also very suddenly devolve to the point where it’s difficult to get anything accomplished or back on track.
I don’t think our mayor and City Council’s relationship is irreparable at this point, but it could get there quickly if things don’t change.
I know the mayor and each council member has their own political agendas and ambitions in mind as well, and perhaps some think this dissension serves those desires well.
But getting mired down in these little spats makes no one look good — not the mayor, or any one of the seven City Council members. It just looks petty and spiteful.
The question of whether the mayor had the authority to fire the council’s spokesperson is one that needs to be answered. And since every “side” has an attorney and their own piece of case law backing up their opinion on the matter, perhaps the only way to solve this is by having a judge decide.
But ugh. Do you guys realize how infuriating that is to your citizens who will have to pay for this process to play out? And who knows how long that will take. Certainly many billable hours for the lawyers involved! Yay for them!
Meanwhile, we will just be standing out here on our chunky, broken sidewalks, watching GulfQuest and Ladd Stadium continue to die and fall into disrepair because you just told us we have no money for those things. But yet, we can afford to have a legal squabble over this.
This is exactly what makes people hate politics.
While I do think this “authority” matter needs to be determined somehow because it will rear its head again on other things, a good compromise on this particular issue would be to allow the council to hire a new spokesperson, just not one the mayor clearly has irreconcilable differences with.
Couldn’t one “side” give a little on this and just move on?
And GulfQuest, what oh what are we going to do with GulfQuest? Is the plan just to hope some restaurant comes in and it is so good people will magically want to go tour a maritime museum? Because if so, that doesn’t sound like much of a plan. At least for the museum portion.
It just seems to me if we are going to have this museum, maybe we should put a little money into marketing it and keeping it staffed and trying to get a bunch of school children from all over the region packed in there every weekday from September to May.
I know no one was ever really all that jazzed about this building and the whole project seemed doomed from the start, which is a shame because it’s a great space and a great museum. But at this point, that’s neither here nor there. It’s ours and we need to do something with it before it just sits there and rots into the river. I get that it’s a complicated issue with no easy answers. But if y’all can’t even sit down and talk about it, it will obviously be even harder to formulate plan to figure out what to do with this thing once and for all.
And it will be the same way with Ladd and the Civic Center and on and on and on.
When the mayor first came into office he took down the door to his office to symbolize he would always be available to the citizens and to the council. At the time, I thought it was a nice gesture albeit a little corny. But perhaps the mayor and councilors alike should all go look at that door again and remind themselves why they are there and that most of the problems they have with each other can be solved by passing from one side of that gloriously corny doorway to the other.
And those paths work both ways.