By Melodee Mabbitt and Tom Travis
Rather than working on agenda items, Flint’s City Council instead fought amongst themselves at all of the committee meetings leading up to Monday’s regular council meeting.
What resulted was a seven-hour long city council meeting marked by a failed attempt to remove Councilperson Eric Mays, council members being removed and leaving before the end of the meeting, resolutions being voted on after 10 p.m., and appointments, ordinances, and resolutions being moved back to committee where they’d previously been on the agenda but never discussed.
Attempt fails to remove Councilperson Mays from leadership
City council’s regular meeting opened with Councilperson Santino Guerra’s immediate motion to suspend the council rules governing leadership, which would have allowed council to vote to remove Mays from leadership positions including chair of committees and his role as vice president of council.
However, the attempt failed when Mays (1st Ward), Maurice Davis (2nd Ward), Jerri Winfrey-Carter (5th Ward), Herb Winfrey (6th Ward), and Council President Monica Galloway (7th Ward) voted not to suspend the rules.
The vote followed a Special Affairs Committee meeting that started at 4:30 p.m. and ran until after 7 p.m. because of an unusual number of public speakers.
Of the 16 residents who spoke, 10 addressed their support for Mays, offering reasons that included his prompt response to residents’ phone calls, his willingness to attend court on behalf of homebound seniors, and his ability to help residents rehab houses that otherwise would be neglected in the 1st ward.
Winfrey-Carter told East Village Magazine (EVM) that she did not support the vote to suspend the rules because it was premature. “Councilman Mays can go off the handle, but he came in today and he didn’t go there. When he does, that is when you say something,” she said.
Council president reports on meeting with Neeley
Galloway described her recent meeting with Mayor Sheldon Neeley, in which Neeley offered to assign a parliamentarian to help council stay on agenda. Galloway declined the offer, instead asking council members to “self-govern individually” and vowing to remain consistent as council president.
“We must impose zero tolerance towards slander, profanity, any and all unprofessionalism, as well as attacks of any kind. Today is the day for change. If we are not up for the challenge, we owe it to this community to resign,” she said.
Galloway also addressed councilpersons’ use of social media while sitting in meetings, likely in response to Councilperson Eva Worthing’s (9th ward) frequent Facebook posts during meetings lamenting the proceedings.
“It is inappropriate and unprofessional to be on and engaged in social media while being paid with public dollars,” said Galloway, asking that Davis, in his role as chair of the council committee that addresses rules, develop guidance for use of social media.
Councilperson Griggs removed
“That was a waste of time,” said Councilperson Allan Griggs (8th ward) in response to Galloway’s statements. “That was not said for our constituents.”
In response, Galloway ruled Griggs out of order and called for his removal from council chambers. Guerra appealed Galloway’s ruling.
During discussion of the appeal, Councilperson Kate Fields (4th ward) said, “Regardless of whether people in the audience feel this is right or not, the fact is that there are a lot of white people in this city and it is becoming very apparent that the black council people are trying to silence the white council people and that is not right.”
The appeal was lost when Mays, Davis, Winfrey-Carter, Winfrey, Winfrey, and Galloway voted it down. Griggs was forced to leave the meeting.
Worthing, who had previously mentioned needing to depart due to an ill child, accompanied Griggs out of the building. Fields left shortly after.
Griggs told East Village Magazine (EVM) that he believes Galloway feels he disrespected her because “I gave her grief a few weeks ago about wasting our time with an unnecessary Mott Community College presentation. When I disagree with her, she calls it disrespect. Actually, she disrespects anyone with a college degree. I’m tired of her self-serving crap, and I’ll be focusing on it more.”
“This council has voted as a block not just as African Americans. Before June or so, I had colleagues that were angry with me because I voted many times the way that Kate Fields, Eva Worthing, and Allan Griggs voted,” Galloway said to EVM after the meeting.
Worthing told EVM that she’s embarrassed to be on council. “The attacks are constant. We’ve been here four hours again and nothing has gotten done,” she said through tears. Worthing said she believes nothing will get done until council leadership changes. “It takes five votes to remove Mays as chair and six to suspend the rules, but we don’t have the votes.”
Fields told EVM she has never made racial references before but that she did now because “it is so obvious that’s how council is responding; not on issues or logic, but on race.”
Davis told EVM, “There is a racist consensus on this council. Mr. Griggs has got it bad, worse than Kate Fields, because he thinks he’s a better person and he looks down his nose like he’s got privilege.”
Worthing, Fields, and Griggs all told EVM they do not see anything within their power that they can do to improve council’s productivity.
Mays finally questions administration
Several members of the mayor’s administration were present again after attending the finance committee meeting that broke quorum because of arguments before the administration could be questioned.
City Administrator Clyde Edwards, Interim DPW Transportation Director John Daly, and Chief Financial Officer and City Treasurer Amanda Trujillo all answered Mays’ questions about how the mayor was conducting their appointments and advising them not to communicate with council.
Without discussion in committees or in the regular council meeting, the six members still present after 10 p.m. unanimously passed a resolution for purchase orders for manhole covers, MDOT contracts for work on Court Street between Crapo Street and Center Road and Dupont Street and Atherton Roads, and resolutions accepting the following grants:
- a Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy grant for Clark Commons,
- a USDA Forestry Service grant for Emerald Ash Borer mitigation,
- A Flint Police Foundation grant for a North End Community Crime Strategy
- A C. S. Mott Foundation grant requested by Planning and Development
- A Community Foundation of Greater Flint grant for Choice Neighborhood Activities
- A C.S. Mott Foundation grant for public safety and policing of events
- A U.S. Department of Justice grant to address the issue of un-submitted sexual assault kits
- A Department of Justice grant requested by the police department
- An ordinance to extend the time limit on downtown metered parking from two hours to four hours.
Council also approved a resolution accepting the settlement of Leigh Golden v. City of Flint.
After discussion, council members approved for first hearing four resolutions for the sale of properties acquired by the city for delinquent taxes. Mays motioned to amend the resolutions in order to raise the prices of the properties, and the amended resolutions passed with Guerra dissenting and Fields, Griggs, and Worthing absent.
Mays proposed and council approved moving two resolutions back to committee for discussion. One was to change the contract name of the Bray Road Dump site, and the other was a U.S. Department of Justice grant that reimburses police agencies for facial recognition software and equipment.
“If what the president cited with her four or five minutes tonight as a new way of running the City, I’m all for it,” said 5th ward Flint resident James Mayfield.
“What she said was the most profound thing I heard tonight, getting order, and everybody needs to respect each other. I liked how she talked about how we just need to handle ourselves as a council to move the city forward,” said Mayfield.
Audrey Muhammad, a resident of the 2nd Ward, said she attended the meeting to support Mays and Davis.
“A lot of the discourse going on, it’s gotta stop. As a citizen, I don’t support that. I got a good feeling leaving this meeting tonight that things are going to start to go a little differently because there was more order held tonight. So, I think things are going to go in a better direction,” she said.
During the meeting Mays, in response to Galloway’s ruling on an procedural issue, sat up in his chair and raised his hand as a Nazi salute. He said, “Ms Galloway you don’t have to sound like Hitler….What!? You want us to do this?” He did it again and Galloway said nothing.
EVM Staff Writer Melodee Mabbitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com.