There’s always hope that with the flipping of a calendar page some of the more annoying things in our lives will simply go away.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if we’d all woken up Jan. 1, 2018, at our ideal weight only to find out Twitter was permanently broken and both Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump had gotten normal haircuts? That would have been a nice starter to the year.
But clearly those were overly ambitious wishes to expect from the simple passage of time. Perhaps we should have set our sights a bit lower and aimed at eradicating a local source of aggravation that really should have corrected itself long before we had to listen to Mariah Carey whine about not having hot tea on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.”
Of course I’m talking about the Mobile City Council’s now two-month-long ridiculous fight over who will serve as council president for the next four years. Seven people who are supposed to be able to lead this community and wisely spend more than $230 million a year to this city’s best advantage are still fighting over who gets to pound a little wooden hammer on the podium at each week’s council meetings. This fight has bitterly divided what not so long ago appeared to be a relatively good example of political comity.
By now it has become clear chances are slim to none that either former council president Gina Gregory or wannabe council president Fred Richardson will get the votes needed to hold the precious gavel, but the fight goes on. Council Vice President Levon Manzie has served as a fill-in president since early November, and by all accounts has done a fine job of running meetings and taking care of whatever presidential duties he is legally allowed to handle. But without an actual council president there is currently no line of succession should something happen to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, and the veep also can’t make certain appointments, so they remain unfilled.
Richardson continues holding out hope he will somehow become president, and a rambling Facebook post last week indicates he has retrenched his stance that he will only cast a vote for the guy he sees in the mirror each morning.
Fred says in the post he was approached by Manzie, who told him he had secured four votes for president but needed Richardson to agree. However, once Fred learned “the other group” was only promising Manzie support if one of “them” was voted in as council vice president, he pulled his support for Levon and declared he will now only vote for himself and not for any “glittering scheme or trick.”
Richardson’s post shows the essence of the problem. Mobile City Council is now split into various camps based upon support for council president. Team Fred right now appears to be made up of Richardson, C.J. Small and Bess Rich. Team Gina may just be Gina, if that. And Team Levon appears to have John Williams, Joel Daves and Gina Gregory.
For some reason there are a few basic truths some members of the council continue ignoring, which keeps this childish fight going. First and foremost is Richardson’s contention that the rules of the game were unfairly switched on him and that because in the past the position was decided by a simple majority of four votes he’s being screwed by the sudden requirement of a five-vote supermajority.
The reality is this: The council handled this process illegally in the past, conducting a secret meeting and deciding the presidency in the backrooms instead of in public. Fred’s bitterness about the rules being changed is like someone who has gotten away with driving 20 mph over the speed limit telling the state trooper “I’ve been driving this fast for years” when he gets pulled over for speeding. You guys got away with doing things the wrong way, but that’s done. Get over it, Fred.
The other truth is there aren’t five people on the council who want either Fred or Gina to be president. For whatever reason, neither has the support of four other council members — assuming they can vote for themselves.
Another truth is that so far the people who were Team Gina appear to be the only ones willing to throw their votes behind another candidate — Manzie. Team Fred’s core supporters — Small and Rich — aren’t budging, which makes them the primary obstructionists in this sad situation. Along with Richardson.
When Bess Rich first threw her vote behind Richardson, it set in motion a series of events that, as I see it, can only lead to Manzie being made president. Richardson, because of his excessive travel on the city’s dime and his penchant for being (rightly or wrongly) at the center of racially divisive issues, is not viewed as an acceptable council president by the majority of voters in several districts. Those voters are also dead set against putting him in a position where if something happened to Stimpson, Mayor Richardson would be calling the shots. This means councilors from those districts would likely pay a heavy political price for supporting him.
Rich had to know this going in. She obviously either thinks her popularity will overcome this effort to make Fred president, or perhaps she doesn’t intend to run again and doesn’t care. But now that voting is being done out in the open and five votes are required, her plan is ruined. She should simply put her vote behind Manzie and end this absurdity.
It also really doesn’t matter a tremendous amount who the council vice president is, gang. Fighting over that position is even more ridiculous than fighting over council president. I get the issue of the president possibly becoming mayor, but the VP really doesn’t do much at all. Put Richardson back in as veep if you can’t get five votes for someone else. He’s obviously pretty chapped about the whole thing and mostly honorary titles mean a lot to him.
If you consider the fact all of these people were re-elected a few months ago with 65 percent or more of the vote in their respective districts, it would be easy to assume the citizens of Mobile were pretty happy with their service over the past four years. Somehow, though, instead of taking a victory lap, these folks have run the car into the ditch arguing about who gets to drive.
It can’t be easy to work together when so much time and energy are being spent fighting about who gets to lead Team Dysfunction. Flip the page and put this silliness to rest. It’s a new year.
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