Council hosts forum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 20, 2004

After meeting for an hour and a half to discuss the arrival of the city’s preliminary audit report, several members of the Selma City Council adjourned across the alley to the convention center for a meeting of another kind.

In an effort to clear the air, Council President George Evans along with council members Nancy Sewell, Sam Randolph, Rita Sims Franklin and James Durry convened with several Selma citizens Monday night.

The purpose of the meeting was to address some of the perceived problems between the council and Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. but unenforced ordinances dominated much of the discussion.

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Moderated by WAKA personality Stephen McLamb, the format allowed audience members to ask questions and allow the council members time to respond.

It was not designed to be a give and take discussion between the public and the commissioners.

After several questions regarding different ordinances, someone finally asked the million-dollar question.

They asked the council members about their relationship with the mayor.

“The relationship, as far as I’m concerned, is good,” Evans said. “Check the record.

At least 90 percent of the things the mayor proposed to this council has passed.”

The council was also asked about a series of ordinances that the people did not feel were being enforced, including law mowing, litter, political signs and noise.

“When will you enforce the ordinances you passed? “Clarence Williams asked.

Evans pointed out that the council is not responsible for law enforcement. He said they could ask the mayor to encourage the police to be more stringent in enforcing the ordinances.

But he also pointed out that the council has done that and the police are providing reports on the number of noise ordinance citations that are made each month.

On the issue of political signs on public property, Evans said it had been discussed in council.

” I took issue with it to a certain extent because why are we bringing it up now?” Evans asked.

He added that the council had been silent about signs through the county elections and judge’s races.

“Now that we have opposition, all of a sudden we need to pick up the signs,” he said.

Councilwoman Rita Sims Franklin said the council should have been after the signs earlier.

“The town looks so unsightly,” she said. “We should have been enforcing it all the way through.”

Thunder Craig asked the council why they haven’t been more outraged by the crime in Selma.

“Crime is really a sign of the times,” said. “It’s occurring in all of our cities.

It’s not really incumbent on council people to prove on that problem and try to solve it.”

Someone asked the council why the more of the crime task force recommendations haven’t been accepted, or followed through upon, including the youth curfew.

“The council took those recommendations analytically,” councilwoman Nancy Sewell said. “With the curfew the police department said it sounds good on paper, but it wasn’t feasible. There were many unanswered questions.”

Jannie Venter, who is running for Durry’s Ward 8 seat, asked why the council was just getting around to having the forum 3 and a half years into their term.

“Is it a political reason?” she asked.

“I wanted to try and clear the air,” Evans said. “It’s not political as far as I’m concerned.”

Several council members expressed hope that whoever is elected or re-elected next term that they would hold forums like the one on Monday night.

Mayoral candidate Glenn King asked about the city audit, and was told the council had just received the preliminary report.

The council was asked why the mayor, like the president and governor, shouldn’t have his own appointment powers.

Franklin said the current system in which the council appoints department heads keeps the checks and balances system going.

Sewell said too much time and effort was spent taking the appointment powers away from the previous administration to simply give them back.

Both Sam Randolph and Bennie Ruth Crenshaw supported giving appointment powers to the mayor.

“The Alabama League of Municipalities said that the council should have that authority,” Durry said. “We have pretty much gone along with who the mayor wants to be on his team.”

The council also discussed the reasons for police understaffing as well as a potential conflict between the mayor’s office and the Chief of Police Robert Green

“I know there has been a conflict between the mayor and the chief of police but (Green) follows his orders,” Evans said.

Randolph added that he would like to see the police get more aggressive in combating crime.

“I think the City of Selma Police Department needs to take the fight to the criminal,” he said.

There should be more discussion tonight as the Chamber of Commerce will host a candidate forum from 5-7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center.