Civility should be the rule of order

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some Selma City Council members talk a great deal about unity. They speak of creating unity and chastise those, who in their perception, do not contribute to the appearance of such.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to watch the debate among two council members, Johnnie Leashore and Bennie Ruth Crenshaw, and council President George Evans.

The debate, which at times seems more like a weigh-in before a title match, centers on Roberts Rules of Order and the ability of the chair &045; or Evans &045; to gavel someone out of order.

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Several weeks ago, Crenshaw spoke her mind, and Evans threw the gavel to her. She wouldn’t be quiet, so he asked an officer to escort her out of the room.

This raised all amounts of scandal among insiders at City Hall. Frankly, the incident did little to the rest of the city’s population but make them shake their heads.

On Monday, the ugly issue of Roberts Rules of Order created disorder again among the trio. Evans had wanted a rule of conduct written for council members, saying that if they ignored his pleas for civility, they could be fined $500 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third.

Leashore and Crenshaw took offense. Crenshaw promised she would test the waters after a majority of the council passed the measure. Leashore said the ordinance was out of order.

The discussion took up a better part of an hour of city government time. But by then, most of the public had left City Hall.

Council chambers is not a sandbox, council members aren’t children and government is not a game. It would appear that our elected officials could maintain civil tongues, refrain from grandstanding and make points succinctly.

Additionally, it would seem that President Evans could control his temper and ego long enough to keep from being drawn into verbal brouhahas that run around much like a tail wagging a dog.

A good dose of manners is needed in council chambers. A certain amount of responsibility accompanies freedom of speech.

Welcome to the film crew

If you noticed a half of the Edmund Pettus Bridge closed this morning, don’t be alarmed.

Our city has hosted a film crew from Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

It seems this crew, led by senior field director Janet Lee, is in town to record a child walking across the bridge as he recites a line from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s &8220;I Have a Dream&8221; speech.

The crew will travel all over the nation, filming children as they recite a line of the speech given at the March on Washington in 1963. Children from Montgomery will say another line while standing near the bus at the Rosa Park Museum there. In New York, other children will speak. In Arizona, native American children will also speak.

Winfrey is well-known for her lifting up and positive approach to things political.

In those dark days right after terrorists slammed airliners packed with people into the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and a farm field in Pennsylvania, Winfrey brought people together in a stadium for a day of prayer and hope and unity.

She has made reading a respected national pastime by using her celebrity status and creating a book club. She has founded libraries and schools and opportunities for people everywhere &045; black and white.

It is fitting that she should send a crew here to Selma to be a part of the tribute to Dr. King. Selma was an anchor in a storm that eventually saw voting rights passed for African Americans.

Thank you, Ms. Winfrey for using one of our landmarks to teach children of all hues about the dream.