By Meghan Christian
“All I’m gonna say is: get the word out. When you hear me say I want to change the complexion of this council, and people say is it a threat, no. It’s factually what I’m going to do,” First Ward Councilperson Eric Mays said during his final comments at the Sept. 24 Flint City Council (FCC) meeting.
“If I have to go in two wards and find people in that ward and help them circulate petitions to get the number to change the complexity of the recall ballot…and right now I’m targeting the Fourth Ward and the Ninth Ward…that’s what I’m going to do,” he added.
The Fourth Ward is represented by Councilperson Kate Fields; the Ninth by Councilperson Eva Worthing.
“They can come in my ward if they want, but I’m going to come in theirs and work with people under the law, because I’m not going to go through this mess for three more years,” Mays said, referring to building tensions that have progressively increased among FCC members. Tensions appeared to first come to a head at the Sept. 10 FCC meeting, where both Fields and Worthing spoke out against what they said was unfair treatment they were receiving, specifically from Mays.
“Mr. Mays wants to attack certain council people…in the discussion he is attacking people…,” Fields said at the Sept. 10 meeting before she was interrupted by Sixth Ward Councilperson and Council President Herb Winfrey.
“It’s not equal treatment to let Mr. Mays say whatever he wants and attacks members…and then Ms. Fields is addressing it and you tell her to move on,” Worthing said at the Sept. 10 meeting in defense of Fields.
Fields and Eighth Ward Councilperson Allan Griggs were absent from the Sept. 24 meeting. While present for most of the meeting, Worthing had left by the time of final council comments.
Some residents also spoke out against the recent behavior of council members, citing name calling, personal attacks, and lack of civility as main issues. Ethics and Accountability Board Interim Vice President Allen Gilbert took it upon himself to deliver a lesson on civility to the council during his public speaking opportunity, quoting the Ethics Handbook for Michigan Municipalities:
“‘Civility can help set the tone for demonstrating fair and just treatment in hearings and investigations. However impossible it might be to mandate, civility might be inspired by conscentious attention to the trappings of the meeting of a public body…or the conscious example of members of the public body itself’,” Gilbert read.
“I hope that, as Council, we can restore civility. It is a very difficult environment to work in when it’s hostile, when there’s name calling,” Worthing said at the Sept. 24 meeting.
“When you look at how much anguish and struggling…that our citizens are going through, and what they have gone through, they have a right to expect more out of us when we come to do city business here,” Council President Winfrey said at the Sept. 24 meeting. Addressing his colleagues, he added, “I want you all to do better. Your citizens that elected you deserve better.”
It is not just between council members where tempers have been flaring. Resident and community activist Quincy Murphy addressed Second Ward Councilperson Maurice Davis at both the Sept. 10 and Sept. 24 FCC meetings regarding recent comments made about Murphy by Davis. The comments range from Davis referring to Murphy as a “fake activist” to downplaying Murphy’s work in the community.Qu
“I feel that Mr. Davis is coming at me…and at times, at his colleagues,” Murphy said. “Not one time have I ever came to this podium and personally attacked anyone…I’m asking for the same respect,” he added.
However, during the FCC meeting on Sept. 24, Davis publicly apologized to Murphy for his behavior in previous meetings. “I’d like to say to Mr. Murphy, I’m going to sit up here and apologize publicly…because one thing I am not is perfect,” Davis said. “So we just leave our differences aside because there’s too much business that needs to be handled,” he added.
“I would just like to say that I think it’s really gentlemanly of Mr. Davis to apologize for those comments,” Worthing said.
However difficult relationships among council members have been, FCC still has managed to take care of some city business.
FCC approved the appointment of Martin J. Banks to serve a seven-year term on the Local Officers Compensation Commission by a unanimous vote. They also approved the appointment of Kathy Jackson to the Flint District Library Board by a vote of six in favor and one abstention. Of those present, Mays abstained, citing not having a chance to speak with Jackson or conduct enough research on her as his reasoning for doing so.
FCC approved resolutions throughout September which included a myriad of different projects and services including street improvements and a salt purchase for the City’s Transportation Department.
FCC passed two ordinances from first reading to second at the Sept. 24 meeting. The first of the two will allow for Avon Park Limited Dividend Housing Association, LLC to pay six percent of their annual rents (minus utilities) in lieu of taxes. The second had to do with adjusting the headline of Chapter 46, Article II, which deals with sewage disposal. Both ordinances passed unanimously.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.