The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Bessemer Circus

The circus has come to town.

I have to retract a statement I made in a Western tribune column recently.

After a recent meeting when tempers flared and harsh words were exchanged, one councilor admitted she was embarrassed and another indicated he would be more diligent in making sure that our cities finances were handled with more accountability. The new council president shows signs of realizing the council is accountable to the citizens.

It’s that last sentence. Last night the ringmaster (AKA council president) Jesse Matthews headlined a show that embarrassed many in attendance for several reasons.

First, a public hearing had been advertised for 6:00, and because the Agenda had the most anticipated item that had been advertised (Water Supply Agreement) as item 5, he decided to move it up to item 1 (impossible because item 1 was Call to Order/Invocation and had already taken place) so that those who had come to attend the hearing would not have to wait. This was around 6:25. But we “wouldn’t have to wait.”

Now often the clowns are involved in pre-council meetings prior to the actual council meetings that delay the start, but that was not the case last night. There was no pre-council meeting. Three council members were in the conference room at 6:00. Trouble is, no one seemed to know where the meeting would take place. We were moved from the conference room to the “chamber” around 6:10, because there is more seating. That didn’t last long because the air conditioning was broken, and people were beginning to get faint. And this was without all the hot air that was to come.

The Ringmaster abruptly adjourned the meeting and said we would re-convene downstairs in the auditorium. So the 6:00 hearing finally began around 6:50 (so the people would not have to wait). The clock on the wall said something around 4:00. Reminds me of the clock on the tower on the building that also does not work, a point I made during my campaign comparing our broken city government to the tower clock. I was to attempt to fix both, but…I digress.

Back to the circus. First, all who support GUSC taking over the water supply contract speak. W. W. Ledbetter (one of the GUSC board members) spoke, but did not use his allotted three minutes wisely and was cut off when the timer sounded. No one else spoke in favor.

Next, those who were against GUSC and favored the city taking over the contract were allowed to speak. Rev. Chakahier Oliver spoke first, eloquently outlining the faults of GUSC continuing to carry the contract. Elvira Kidd spoke, outlining the Bessemer Neighborhood Association's opposition to GUSC, asking for accountability regarding the missing $3.7 million, and voicing concerns about a 3 member board having so much control with no citizen oversight. One by one, a couple of dozen other citizens voiced their support for the city having control.

Eddie Cooper , the mayor of Brighton, addressed the council on behalf of the 3600 residents of his city, 1200 of which are on Bessemer Water Service. Gary Richardson, the mayor of Midfield, did the same for the 5635 residents of Midfield.

A Bessemer citizen presented a petition with over 1000 names on it. The head of the local NAACP spoke in support of the city.

Shan Paden, attorney for GUSC, sauntered up to the microphone and began speaking. Oops. Point of Order. The GUSCies have already had their turn.

Pow Wow. A bevy of lawyers and a couple of council members with the mayor listening in circled up and whispered at one another for about 10 minutes before Chief Jesse…oh wait, Ringmaster Jesse decided to re-open the floor to those in favor of GUSC.

Well Paden did nothing to address any of the concerns that had been brought up, instead using his time to talk in circles and raise his voice a little. He did let us know that he is not a rate payer, and lives in Verbena, AL, and that he "probably owns more property in Bessemer than any of us out there!" (not a direct quote, but woo woo, I'm impressed).

What about the $3 million, Shan? What about the need for GUSC to continue in existence anyway, Shan? What about the $131,000 (a good bit of which is paid to you) that the city would save if GUSC was gone, Shan?

Over 1000 people in favor of the city. A pittance in favor of GUSC.

I know when I have been to the circus there is a lot of elephant poop. Same here.

When everyone had jumped through their hoops and the dust settled, the mayor’s resolution to allow the city to take over the contract failed (2-4) and the resolution to allow GUSC to have the contract passed (4-2). Councilor Belcher (who during the meeting said she was sick of us and was ready to go home), Councilor Soles (who said the hearing was a waste of his time, his mind was made up before the meeting), Councilor Stevens (rumors are swirling) and Ringmaster Matthews (who, relating back to the beginning of this post, is now showing absolutely NO sense of accountability to the citizens) voted for GUSC.

Councilor Alexander (who admitted to not being accountable with earlier votes regarding GUSC, but ready to be accountable now) and Councilor Cochran (who was the councilor referred to in the Tribune column that stressed accountability) voted for the city. Councilor Davidson was not present.

This is not the first time that those four councilors have gone against the will of the citizens, and I predict there will be great effort in unseating each of them in 2010.

Not one gave a valid reason (or any reason, really) for voting for a board that has not been a good steward of money made available to them and for which there is no reason for them to exist.

The Public’s eyes and ears are open. And with so many eyes and ears open, things are being discovered that the Ringmaster and clowns might wish were never uncovered.

Bow-wow for now. Hmmm. Someone at a BNA meeting once said it all comes back to the dogs.

Maybe it does.