By Tom Travis
Mayor Sheldon Neeley was not present Monday night at a special city council meeting that he had called. All nine councilpersons were present for the meeting, along with nearly 70 audience members, several media outlets, members of the city administration and even a U.S. presidential candidate.
Neeley had called the special council meeting in a press release last week. (See EVM‘s article about the press release and call for the meeting here.
Neeley’s main reason for calling the meeting was his suggestion the council needed to act on a number of resolutions postponed after a series of chaotic meetings during which little business was conducted–many lasting six, seven, eight hours or more.
While it took two hours to get to the action items, the council eventually accomplished discussion and voting on all 11 items on the agenda, as the mayor had requested, in just under 45 minutes, a radically shorter time than all recent meetings. The overall meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m.
[Update: In response to a request from EVM, Mayor Sheldon Neeley Thursday commented on what he thought about the Special City Council meeting detailed here. Mayor Neeley, through an email from the City of Flint Communications Director, Marjory Raymer, stated “I appreciate the work put in by the Flint City Council at Monday’s special meeting. It was a very successful meeting: The City Council worked through all of the agenda items that were leftover from its last meeting and we are now ready to continue moving forward. This is about doing the work the people of Flint entrusted us to do.”]
Among the resolutions discussed and approved were a road project on Bray Road with costs of $36,450.00, and a resolution for the City to spend $82,687.47 to purchase two back-hoes and a front loader for the Department of Public Works.
Also discussed and approved was acceptance of a $75,000 grant from Engaged Cities Funding . In addition three proposed medical marijuana ordinances involving zoning matters received introductory and first readings.
During public speaking time 13 members of the public spoke on various topics. Each public speaker is allowed three minutes to speak. This accounted for more than 30 minutes during the meeting.
Carriage Town proposal draws criticism
Three Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood residents spoke out against the Communities First continuing plans to develop a neighborhood green space into low income housing units. This ordinance will be discussed at the upcoming Wednesday, Feb. 19 committee meeting. (See EVM‘s article on the Communities First development project in Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood here. )
How the meeting proceeded: Mays is removed again
More than two hours into the meeting, no resolutions or ordinances had been voted on yet. Disagreements broke out when First Ward councilperson Eric Mays questioned City Administrator Clyde Edwards during a discussion about approval of money for the purchase of back-hoes and a front loader.
This is equipment for the Department of Public Works. Council President Monica Galloway (7th Ward) challenged Mays on the relevance of his line of questioning. Mays disagreed, claiming he had the right to ask about the spending of money on this type of equipment because it is used in blight cleanup.
Mays moved the discussion from the money being allocated for the equipment to the issue of using the equipment for blight removal. Mays said he believed Mayor Neeley was playing politics by choosing Ward 2 and Ward 5 “to infiltrate some votes and to play politics on this council.”
Mays asked Edwards if he was aware of Mayor Neeley’s recent press conference concerning the cleanup of blight in the city. Mays told Edwards he was “offended” that the mayor chose to have 2nd Ward and 5th Ward councilpersons at the press conference with no other wards or councilpersons represented.
Jerri Winfrey-Carter (5th Ward) later clarified that Mayor Neeley pointed out in the press conference he was “beginning” the blight clean up project in the 2nd and 5th Wards.
Mays complained that Edwards is “jockeying” him because he wasn’t going to comment on the blight issue. Speaking to the Council, Edwards said the mayor is committed to fight blight in all wards. Edwards said Mays’ accusation that the mayor is picking certain wards to fight blight and neglecting other wards “… is a total false error.”
Councilperson Davis (2nd Ward) called for the orders of the day. Calling for the orders of the day is a parliamentary procedure which calls the members of the a committee or council back to the agenda items at hand. Mays attempted to speak but because the orders of the day had been called, Mays was not recognized.
Galloway told Mays that he was “way off” topic and he needed to come back to the topic at hand. Mays then began to talk over Galloway and she called him out of order.
Galloway reminded Mays that he had already been warned earlier in the meeting. Mays continued arguing and talking over Galloway. Galloway then called for Mays to be removed from the meeting and told Mays he could walk out voluntarily or be escorted out by Flint Police Officer William Metcalfe, the officer regularly assigned to patrol council meetings.
Mays said he would like to be escorted out because “I’m going to sue you.” Galloway called for a five-minute recess while Mays exited.
Even though the City Council was in recess, Mays continued to speak from his seat into the microphone. Mays said that it was ridiculous he couldn’t talk about money for blight. Mays called out against Galloway for using, “repeatedly Gestapo-style tactics. This is ridiculous.”
When the council came back into session Mays was in the back hallway surrounded by TV station cameras discussing his exit from the council meeting.
Members of the administration present were City Administrator, Clyde Edwards; Chief of Staff, Brian Larkin; Director of Planning and Development, Suzanne Wilcox; City of Flint Fire Chief, Raymond Barton; Director of Public Works, Rob Bincsik; City Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Amanda Trujillo and City Assessor, Stacey Kaake.
A presidential candidate appears
The final public speaker Monday night was a presidential candidate for the United States, Charleta McInnis. McInnis is a resident of Detroit and began her presidential campaign in August 2019. While not on the ballot, McInnis presented herself as a write-in candidate for the Nov 2020 presidential election.
Speaking with EVM in the hallway of City Hall, she stated she was in town to meet with some members of her campaign team. She said she presently has two campaign workers in Flint but hopes to have more. McInnis has never been elected to office but has been a precinct delegate in Detroit and was budget manager for the City of Detroit for 17 years.
When EVM asked what were some points of her campaign platform, she stated anti-poverty and inmate rehabilitation, but added she had many more. Her website is www.char2020.com. Several of her backers handed out flyers advertising McInnis to the audience.
The next council meeting will be 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb.19 on the 3rd floor of City Hall.
EVM Assistant Editor and city council beat reporter Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.