LARGO – The word had gone out, almost like a decree from some ancient Caesar, that the representatives from organizations of all kinds and descriptions were to foregather October 5 before the Charter Review Committee to give their input for the august proceedings of the panel.
Five showed up, although the groups solicited numbered more than 50. Name a group and it was on the invitation list.
The five that showed up are closely and deeply allied to the city, literally, in four of the five, in the warp and weave of the city itself.
What the representatives of the five groups came up with was nil and none.
As representatives of the fire fighters union, police union and city employees union came before the committee, questioning of them was dragged out in detail – going far afield into total irrelevancies - obviously to pad out and fill the time.
One point was made again and again – Shirley Craig kept coming back to the idea of a super majority vote to fire the city manager. It has already been decided that that procedure will be taken on a 4-3 vote. Craig wants a super majority vote.
Why? One reason could be protecting her own interest, in a fashion; her husband, Mac Craig, is an assistant city manager and his job fate is likely tied to the fate of the current manager. (Yes, you need the chutzpah of a second story man in some of these jobs.)
In a previous meeting, Craig urged that the subject be revisited, citing a local daily newspaper’s view that a super majority would be preferable and that the paper’s “opinion should be taken into account.”
“The (Big Paper) says we should re-think that and their opinion is worth paying attention to,” Craig said. The editorialist of that publication is an ardent devotee of the current city manager.
And last Wednesday, her urging launched a prolonged discussion on the subject as she fought to rescue her idea of a 5-2 super majority vote.
Chester Rowe, a committee member, wisely pointed out that at the beginning the committee had decided that within itself majority rule would prevail.
George Feaster threatened a walk out if the review committee goes back to review decisions it has already made. This brought a petulant question from J.B. Butler wondering if those who stood with Craig could not give further opinions.
Butler obviously lives for these opportunities to bloviate in public, and when TV exposure is thrown in his addiction to the sound of his own voice rises to the highest quantum (the word is that he never misses any of the broadcast re-runs of the Charter Review Committee meetings).
When the Communication Workers of America representative (the CWA represents the bulk of city employees) was testifying, J.B. Butler, assuming the district attorney role he relishes with such gusto, tried to trip her up with his cross examination.
All of it had no pertinence whatsoever to the business of reviewing the charter and was centered on politics which Butler, time and again, registers his disapproval of, displaying his colossal ignorance of the American system (“I don’t equate majority rule with democracy” being one such gem).
In his opining on the question of whether employees should serve on city boards Zimmet (undoubtedly unwittingly at the moment) gave the argument and rationale against him being under the control of the city manager.
With all the discussion amounting to so much hot air (as usual), the question went unresolved. It appears city employees are on city boards in contravention of the present Charter (which is not unusual in a city that has decided not to follow the rule of law).
It is an amazing process, the quintessence of an amateur show with limited or no talent. For example, the chairman, Arnold Johnson, began the meeting with a soaring homily of how such a proceeding could only occur in America (exhibiting total unawareness of the impact of democracy in such places, among others, in the world as England – from where America got it all).
As it was, everything was wrapped up in less than an hour at which point Alan Zimmet, the city lawyer who is directing the charter review committee, wanted to know how to proceed at the October 12 meeting when the group is to finalize and summarize the stumbling around they have done for 11 weeks.
That final discussion was dominated by Craig’s urgent appeal that the matter of the City Commission’s vote on removing a city manager be re-visited.
Of course, that revealed the role of at least one member of the Charter Review Committee – that job security for at least one city hired hand be protected to the extent possible.
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