Get council under control

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Recently, City Council President George Evans, in an attempt to streamline council meetings and make them more efficient, implemented a time limit on citizens who addressed the council. He also asked the mayor and city attorney to keep their reports to 30 minutes, a move that would allow both (in a two meeting per month format plus work sessions) ample time to report on city operations.

Evans’ move was much needed, as this council’s deliberations have had a history of turning into what could best be described as a circus. Evans’ change in meeting structure proved it can work; but was short lived.

During Monday’s meeting the council was back to its old form, having lengthy, non-productive (and sometimes unprofessional) discussion on items that should take a minimal amount of time to rule on.

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Citizens who addressed the council (and there were many) were allowed to talk until they decided they didn’t have anything else to say, which put the council into a situation where it was unable to complete its agenda.

And while it’s important that the council allow citizens a reasonable amount of time to express their views, the limitations Evans put in place need to be enforced so that the council can complete the city’s business for all the citizens of Selma.

Mayor Perkins and City Attorney Jimmy Nunn also went over their allotted time making a bad situation worse. Four hours after the meeting began, the council still had not started addressing agenda business items.

Compounding the problem, the last half of the meeting turned into an unprofessional free-for-all that culminated in Evans asking Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw to leave the council chambers because she continued to interrupt him when he was trying to bring the meeting to some kind of order. Evans’ request went unheeded as Crenshaw refused to leave council chambers and continued, as she has in the past, to make a mockery out of parliamentary procedure.

For the sake of taking care of the business of Selma, the council has to get their meetings under control. It starts with Evans, but each council member has a responsibility to project a professional attitude at all times when approaching the people’s business.

It’s not that we expect them to agree on everything in a one hour meeting, then gather around a campfire afterwards holding hands and singing “Kumbaya,” but we do expect them to act professional in their approach to and implementation of a meeting plan and conduct the city’s business reasonably and professionally.

Also, council members have a fiduciary responsibility to scrutinize the city’s finances and ask questions when they feel the need; be it in a work session or a council meeting and should not be criticized for doing so. Questions lead to answers and answers lead to knowledge.

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of knowledge being gained at this council’s meetings and that has to change, one way or another.