By Tom Travis
One Flint resident who frequently attends Flint City Council meetings finally had enough, quietly donning a costume with a pointed message at the Oct. 23 session.
Here is how it happened:
Twice a month the Flint City Council meets in committee sessions. There are several committees that meet through out the year including Grants, Legislative, Special Affairs, and Governmental Operations.
One of the most significant and influential committees is the Finance Committee. Monica Galloway (7th Ward) has chaired this committee since January 2019 when the council voted out Eric Mays (1st Ward) as its chairperson and voted in Galloway. It has caused some contentious moments in various Finance Committee meetings in the past year. Mays has several times stated to Galloway and the council that Galloway is “not the legitimate chairperson of the finance committee” as he feels he was unrightfully voted out.
A Finance Committee meeting began as usual with some agenda changes and adjustments. The purpose of committees is for the council to work through in a more detailed way the ordinances and resolutions before they are sent to the full city council for a vote. Present in the meeting Oct. 23 were eight of the nine council members [Eva Worthing (9th Ward) was not present]; Joyce McClane, director of purchasing; Tamar Lewis, deputy finance director; Steve Branch, city administrator; and about six city residents.
As has been typical of council meetings in recent months and years, the meeting quickly degenerated into squabbling, interruptions, accusations and counter-accusations about almost every one of the items discussed.
At only 26 minutes into the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, a flareup occurred as the group discussed a proposed resolution to purchase several Genesee County Land Bank properties. Most of the properties chosen are in the Councilperson Eric Mays’ 1st Ward, but there are properties in other wards as well.
Councilperson Kate Fields (4th Ward) attempted to make a motion to postpone each of the resolutions concerning the purchasing of properties until the next committee meeting. Mays then made a motion to separate each ordinance. Galloway intervened, suggesting there cannot be two motions on the floor at once.
Debate ensued between Mays and Galloway. Mays accused Galloway of discriminating against him because he is black and from the North End. Chairperson Galloway, who also is African-American, told Mays he was out of order and that she was giving him his last warning.
The final discussion topic of the evening was a payment by the city of $300,000 to cover salaries at the Flint water treatment plant. Galloway asked City Administrator Steve Branch why this matter was coming up now, but Mays interrupted, asking Galloway if she knew these were state-mandated positions and the city has to pay for them.
Galloway replied that since this was the last committee meeting before the election (in which Mayor Karen Weaver faces competition from State Representative Sheldon Neeley) it was important to her to find out the facts.
Mays accused Galloway of bringing the election into the council’s business. Galloway got up to leave the meeting and residents present began to chime in their opinions about having the election brought up. Meanwhile, council members raised their voices at each other.
That was when Flint resident Mezon Green began to pull out pieces of a clown outfit from her bag. She put on a colorful polka-dot clown tie first, then a red clown nose, next a fuzzy rainbow colored wig and finally a rainbow clown skirt. She put on the clown outfit piece by piece as the meeting disintegrated into yelling and bickering.
As Green put things on, Councilpersons Jerri Winfrey-Carter (6th Ward), Santino Guerra (3rd Ward), and Maurice Davis (2nd Ward) laughed and took her picture. Fields was gone by then. No one made any official comments and Galloway, who was sitting directly across from her, seemed to ignore the stunt.
By the time the full clown outfit was on, the meeting had broken up but yelling continued between Maurice Davis and local activist Art Woodson.
Asked why she did this, Green said, “The reason I put that outfit on is this kind of foolishness with Eric Mays always clowning, disrespecting women here and on Facebook. All this clowning on this council–if they gonna clown, then why not the residents, too? When in Rome, do as the Romans. They clown, I clown.”
EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.