By Tom Travis
Just a few hours after the noon swearing in of Mayor-elect Sheldon Neeley in City Hall Monday, the Flint City Council (FCC) will meet.
City Clerk Inez Brown will begin that meeting, at 5 p.m. in council chambers. The first order of business will be a vote on council leadership for the year 2019-2020.
Back-and-forth campaigning breaks out
At the Wednesday, Nov. 6, bi-monthly FCC committee meeting, First Ward Councilperson Eric Mays was one of the first to speak and began a a dialogue about the upcoming leadership vote.
The council vote on Monday will determine who will be president, vice president and chairpersons for each of the council’s committees.
Present City Council president, Sixth Ward Councilperson Herb Winfrey made it clear he does not want the job. “I’m not interested in serving as council president again,” he asserted, thanking the council for their support.
“Anyone who is gonna be fair”
Second Ward Councilperson Maurice Davis said he’s comfortable with “anyone who is gonna be fair.”
“I’m comfortable with Councilwoman [Jerri] Winfrey-Carter, Mays or even you,” he said, addressing Seventh Ward Councilperson Monica Galloway, “but you need to work on attitudes…Mays will make a fair chairperson. We must know what we’re doing before Monday. If we choose someone with a bias what we gonna do then?”
Referring to the lengthy meetings that have become customary for City Council, Davis added, “We need to be out at 9 p.m. from each council meeting.”
Attempt to move on scotched
Councilperson Kate Fields (4th Ward) mentioned multiple times during the leadership vote discussion that the topic was meant to be a brief discussion. She repeated, “I would like to move on to city business.”
Galloway responded to Fields by explaining that Mays asked for a brief discussion but that she wanted to ask the rest of council to offer their opinions on the upcoming council leadership vote.
“I appreciate this dialogue,” Galloway said. “And although some may say it’s not appropriate, I think it is very appropriate. I’ve been on council since 2013 and every president and vice president election has been behind the scenes.
What’s “not proper for leadership”
“And unfortunately, from what I’ve experienced is that once the president has the five [votes], they don’t even talk to the other four [councilpersons]. And that is not proper for leadership.
“Even if you don’t think you have somebody’s support because you are asking to lead them. they should be included in the dialogue,” Galloway stated. “We should not be having those conversations in the background. This is leadership and everything we do is open meeting.”
Addressing Galloway, Ninth Ward Councilperson Eva Worthing said, “I will not be voting for you for president because you have shown that you cannot handle Mr. Mays….You’re not fit to be president.”
“Embarrassing and pretty childish”
Then, referring to the discussion of vying for council leadership positions, Worthing said, “This whole sucking up to other people just trying to get everyone’s vote right now is embarrassing and pretty childish.”
Mays stated he’s examined the different personalities on the council and noted that he takes that into consideration for leadership.
Mays pointed to Third Ward Councilperson Santino Guerra and said, “I want you to be successful, upward, and mobile. I would have loved to be a council person at 20 something, I’m 61 now. I’m gonna help you, I’m gonna work with you, but I’m not gonna throw away nothing to keep foolin’ with foolishness.” Then Mays added as a challenge to Guerra, “Change my mind, Mr. Guerra.”
Guerra interested in presidency
Guerra is running for the seat about to be vacated by Flint’s Mayor-elect Sheldon Neeley, but the election for the State seat will not be until November 2020.
“I am definitely interested in the position of president,” Guerra said.
Finally an exasperated Councilperson Fields said, “For the third time in this brief discussion that we agreed to…this is a finance committee… for all the verbosity about ‘we’re here to take care of city business’ that is not in fact happening, I would like to move on.
“I would like to hear from the public in public speaking,” she said, “and then get to the special orders in order to do the business of the city and not listen to these monologues of people who have aspirations.”
Fifth Ward Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter turned to Guerra and stated, “I’m not gonna support you for president, I don’t think you’re ready. I will say to Councilwoman Galloway and Councilman Mays, I think both of you would be ideal presidents.
“However, I’m having issues, Councilwoman Galloway, and we’ve talked about this, about your leadership skills, being fair across the table, and the tone–the tone makes a difference. I can see either one of you to be president or vice president. I think Councilman Mays would be an excellent chair for the Finance Committee.”
Finally, the council closed the discussion about the upcoming leadership vote and turned to public speaking.
A call for better behavior
One of the speakers, Flint resident and business owner Tonya Burns, pleaded with the council to set higher standards for its behavior.
“I think each of you have a gift collectively,” she began, specifically complimenting Councilperson Davis on a recent speech he gave at an NAACP event. She said his words really touched the heart of her son. She thanked Davis for do that. She said her son is a National Honor Roll student and has aspirations of attending Harvard University.
But then she added she doesn’t allow her children to watch city council videos and that she doesn’t want to bring her children to see Flint City government in action.
“We need to set a level of excellence for ourselves to pass on to our children,” Burns pleaded. “And we should have children here in council to learn. I am asking that we don’t use race, create a hostile environment, touch on anyone’s intelligence by calling them dumb–we should not be calling white woman, when we go into race — that offends me.”
EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.