The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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City Council, December 18

Ordinance relating to election campaigning pulled
Gadsden Green residents plead for a reprieve
Marc Knapp

We're not sure who had second thoughts. Ostensibly it was Council member Bleeker. But considering the Mayor was canvassing support for the ordinance, it could have been him. The ordinance was of course that relating to City elections. It attempted to define what candidates could and could not say. The most offensive parts were the fines and the nature of the committee to pass judgment on alleged transgressors. The Mayor was to sit on the committee and choose the members. Viewers can see the proposed ordinance by referring to the posting of December 16.

Just before the Citizens Participation period was to begin, Council member Bleeker moved that the proposed ordinance be discussed. Council agreed to this and the Council member then announced that she was withdrawing the original proposed ordinance and substituting a resolution. Needless to say, there was a mighty difference between the two. The first was an ordinance and would become law, the second was simply a resolution which was not binding. In simple terms, the resolution required candidates to be restrained in their campaigning, tell no lies, or distort the truth.

Council member Bleeker "surprised" at the reaction
Council member Bleeker expressed surprise about the reporting in the Post & Courier and the negative reaction to the ordinance. Really, she had only the best of intentions, she feigned. But after talking to Council member Shirley, she decided to withdraw the proposed ordinance. We note that Council member Shirley had publicly criticized the ordinance. And from comments made last night, we suspect that other members of Council would have been critical if it remained on the agenda.

All members support new resolution
Every Council member commented on the proposed resolution and all supported it. Some, like Council members Mitchell and Lewis wondered, whether it really would make any difference. Council member Fishburne indicated support. He reminded Council of the injustice relating to the election where the incumbent Bob George lost narrowly to Council member Wilson because of a letter sent to citizens by Herbert Fielding. The letter unfairly accused Mr. George of racism. Council member Wilson made no mention of this issue but did opine that there would be little change in the style of local politics until "senior" government (State and Federal} provided the lead.

Ordinance pulled just before Citizens Participation period
It was unusual for an issue such as the proposed "first reading" of the ordinance to be taken up before Citizens Participation. Usually a "first reading" is placed at the end of an agenda. In our view, the only reason for the move was to diffuse the criticism that was about to be unleashed. And of course, for all of us wound up with fire, the issue became moot. I expressed the opinion that the substituted resolution was unlikely to make any difference and my associate Warwick Jones suggested that the mere placement of the proposed ordinance on the agenda did nothing for the image of Council.

To what extent was the Mayor involved?
And we still wonder! Council member Bleeker would do nothing on Council with out the Mayor's blessing. How he allowed the proposed ordinance to be presented to Council amazes us. . The ordinance was contentious, unfair and unenforceable in our view. And this view was shared by many others to whom we spoke. We were also told by a Council member last night that the Mayor has solicited support for the Ordinance from Council members. That it was withdrawn suggests that Council members gave it a "thumbs down".A really interesting fact is that when I ran for City Council against Ms. Bleeker 8 years ago, she had a private investigator watch me and my family. Talk about hypocrisy.

Budget wrapped up
The Budget was wrapped up last night and we will spend little time commenting further. Mr. Emerson Read, a strong and successful advocate of eliminating property taxes, spoke against the increased tax proposed by the City for 2008. He was supported by other citizens. This was enough for the Mayor to launch again into his standard speech about the City's low property tax and the reduction in millage rates over the years. His speech, coupled with the fawning supporting speech from Council member Tinkler were sufficient to add about an hour to Council proceedings. The speeches contributed nothing new to the issue.

Gadsden Green mothers plead for reprieve
And as for long speeches, Council member Gilliard excelled himself last night. He clearly feels that
the length of speech is determined by his opinion of the subject's importance. He expressed extreme dismay at the expulsion of tenants from the Gadsden Green Housing complex because of the criminal acts of these residents' children. He spoke after 3 of the mothers pleaded with Council to act and stop the evictions.

The mothers spoke eloquently and most of us in the audience were moved. They didn't condone the acts of their children even though they must have had there heads in the sand not to see what was going on with their children. My sources tell me that these children were part of a gang, a fact not mentioned by Council member Gilliard. Give us another chance, the mothers said. Be mindful we can't spend all day with our children. We need to work.

Council member Gilliard has championed their cause in recent weeks. But the confrontational and repetitive style of Council member Gilliard and the accusatory manner of his speech was not necessary. Who he was trying to confront or accuse was not clear. And there was some doubt at the end of the discussion as to what he proposed

But probably little can be done
Council member Gilliard wanted a resolution stating that Council wanted the evictions stopped. The Mayor counseled that the issue was not clear cut. The City may administer the Gadsden Green complex, but it was bound by HUD rules. The Mayor suggested that all the facts relating to the administration and its obligations be studied before any resolution be shaped. He might also have said that although the rule may seem harsh in it application at Gadsden Green, it was necessary for the protection of other tenants.