My son settles most of the rather insignificant conflicts in his 8-year-old life by flipping a coin or playing “rock, paper, scissors.” Whether it’s a tug-of-war going on in his own head or a friendly argument with his little sister or friends, if he comes to an impasse where he just can’t make a decision based on the facts alone, it’s “heads or tails” or “rock, paper, scissors, shoot.” Usually the decision is made on best two out of three, you know, for fairness.
While these may seem like rather rudimentary or sophomoric ways to settle matters, they are, however, usually effective. He accepts the decision the gods of chance declare and moves on.
And while this might not be the best way for the Mobile City Council to finally decide who its president is going to be after nearly a year of arguing over it with no resolution, it is time for them to figure out how to make a decision on this and move on, like the big boys and girls they are.
This all started back in November when the council voted to elect their president. In previous council elections, they had taken an informal vote on this behind closed doors — though the legality of this is/was highly questionable — and then officially elected their leader in an open meeting. Most attorneys say these secret “elections” definitely could have been successfully challenged in court.
But, in any case, usually it worked out just fine (at least in their eyes, and none of us were the wiser), but after the last municipal election the council was divided on who should lead them for a number of reasons. So instead of the secret election they held it in an open meeting.
Gina Gregory, who had served on the council as president the previous four years, received three votes, and Fred Richardson, who has served on the council since 1997 and as vice president for many of those years, received four votes. Councilman John Williams then asked council attorney Jim Rossler to issue an opinion on how many votes the law actually requires.
Rossler said the Zoghby Act required five votes. This angered Richardson, who brought up the fact that a simple majority is what they always used in their secret vote. The councilors who voted for Richardson didn’t like what they heard and ousted him, replacing Rossler with Wanda Cochran. They then tasked her with the same question, and she agreed with her predecessor that the Zoghby Act required a super-majority of five votes to elect a president. I guess since they realized they were never going to get the answer they wanted from any attorney, they let her keep her job.
In the meantime, the one person they could all agree on as vice president, Levon Manzie, has been acting as president. And has, by all accounts, done so effectively.
In April, Richardson BFF and local tattoo shop owner Chassity Ebbole filed a complaint, as a citizen, against the council, asking the court to force it to vote as it has historically, with a simple majority — though at least two attorneys and the co-author of the Zoghby Act herself, Mary Zoghby, all say it requires five.
The case is scheduled for a hearing this Friday, Aug. 10, at 9 a.m. Many folks feel it will get dismissed and thrown back to the council for them to decide with five votes, as the law clearly dictates. And let’s hope it does, for a couple of reasons, the first being that considering the characters involved in this case it’s going to be a circus. And not a fun one, with lions and tigers and bears, oh my. But a really embarrassing one, full of clowns and “oh mys” of a different kind.
But secondly, and most importantly, if this for some reason does get into a long, protracted court battle, who is going to be paying the legal fees associated with this, folks? That’s right, all of us. And while the trainwreck-lovin’ side of me would most certainly delight in watching the battle between the exotic-looking, heavily-inked host of “Tattoo Chat” on cable access and the stiffs on the Mobile City Council, I’d still rather have my tax dollars going to, you know, things we need, like fixing sidewalks and dealing with aging stadiums and civic centers and stormwater drainage issues and on and on, instead of this nonsense.
So let’s just say the judge does send it back to the council for them to decide, what then?
Time for rock, paper, scissors, shoot? Heads or tails?
No, but it’s time to put an end to this, guys. Y’all need to come together, talk this out and come to a decision.
Manzie has clearly been doing a fine job and seems to be a good compromise. They actually tried to elect him once before, but it all fell apart when they couldn’t agree on who should be VP, which really is a dumb, fairly powerless position to argue over.
Is it time for Bess Rich and C.J. Small to align with Daves, Williams and Gregory and elect Manzie once and for all? Or maybe just go in a different direction altogether with one of the councilors who haven’t been previously considered?
Or why not take the steps to make this a rotating position, like the Mobile County Commission does? That seems like the best solution and it keeps everyone from getting too power hungry. Just when you think someone is getting too big for his or her britches, it’s time for a new president.
Plus, it gives you a glimpse of each one’s leadership style — for better or for worse. And sometimes “for worse” is not such a bad thing. Wouldn’t you rather get a peek at their skills (or lack thereof) at this position now — which is largely ceremonial — rather than electing them to mayor or some other higher office one day pretty much sight unseen? Even if it’s a disaster, it’s the ultimate way to kick the tires on ambitious politicos with minimal risk.
There are many other ways to skin the cat they have unsuccessfully been trying to skin — and in a grown-up, dignified manner that doesn’t involve courtrooms or tattoo queens.
But will they, is the question.
Hopefully, the real leaders on the council will finally step up and give us the right answer. The one the citizens of this great city deserve.
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