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City Council, February 26

Lackluster meeting
Management of Magnolia Project criticized
Marc Knapp

For a time, it seemed that the representation of the public at last night’s Council meeting would be only 3 persons. And from looking at the agenda, there seemed little of interest that would draw out citizens on a cold and rainy evening. A few more citizens straggled in as the meeting progressed. But if the low attendance numbers reflected anticipation of a dull evening, the public got it right.

Dealing with the Ways and Means agenda took about 10 minutes and the City Council agenda, about 30 minutes – and the 30 minutes included a 5 minute Power Point presentation prepared by County Council members Darby and Pryor commemorating those who lost their lives in the Civil Rights movement. The presentation was part of the Black History Month celebrations

Few question from citizens
Citizens Participation drew only 4 speakers. Mrs. Alice Tellis was there again, as threatened in previous meetings, to ask what the City was doing in relation to her complaints on law enforcement, Her pharmacy has been robbed several times and cars were parking illegally in the store parking lot. I complained about the tardiness of the City in picking up and disposing of dead animals, and an ex City fireman asked the Mayor as to whether any City documents in relation to the Super Sofa Store fire had been altered. Uncharacteristically, the Mayor immediately responded. His answer was “no”.

Later, my associate Warwick Jones leaned over and said with incredulity that the City Council meeting would be over within 30 minutes. More in jest than in expectation, I responded that Council member Gilliard will probably ask some question to prolong the conclusion. He did, 5 in fact! None were particularly relevant to the meeting and could have been asked privately of the Mayor.

Council member Gallant takes Magnolia to task
Council member Gallant also made a request which was unusual. He asked that Council not consider anything relating to the Magnolia Project for a time while he sorted out the problems with the project. He specifically mentioned Cherokee Partners which is a partner in the venture and a major financier. He said that it had promised certain things to the community in the area and that it was failing to live up to its promises. It was making mistakes. After the meeting, the Council member told my associate that Cherokee was doing things with out consulting either him or the community. Its plans for around the old Magnolia Cemetery were also contrary to what had been promised. The Council member also noted that there had been a change in management and the new manager was ignoring the agreements already made.

Partner in project supports Council member
The Post and Courier carried a report on the incident today and noted that Robert Clement of Clements, Crawford and Thornhill, which is also a partner in the Magnolia Project endorsed the Council member’s statement. However, the president of Magnolia Development LLC, the developer, claimed that the Council member has refused to meet with the company in recent weeks.

All very strange! The Magnolia project is a potentially a billion dollar plus development and great importance to the City’s development. Mayor Riley professed ignorance of the matter but showed no signs of concern. We suspect there is little chance of the project running off the rails and the present flap may be more a matter of bruised egos and poor communication than anything else. Council acquiesced to Council member Gallant’s wish and will refuse to hear any matter relating to Magnolia for 60 days.

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