City Guvment, The Gift That Just Keeps On Giving
By Coulter Fussell
You know when a big storm is brewing off shore and the TV weather people get so excited that you know they are secretly hoping everything goes completely out of control just for the mere fact that they can talk about it on air? Well, I used to look at their appetite for potential disaster with disdain. That is, until I started writing for a newspaper.
As I sat in the Board of Alderman meeting last week and watched City Attor-ney/Rabid City Guard Dog, John Crow’s boisterous and condescending attempts to humiliate and berate a Water Valley citizen (who also happened to be my husband) speaking before the board I felt like Jim Cantore on the windy beach, flying sand stinging my eyes. A kid in a candy store. I was in awe at the column material that was being so kindly and freely presented to me. The weekly struggle to find something to write about was over on a Tuesday! Thank you, Board of Aldermen, once again. The gift that keeps on giving.
You can read all about what happened at this meeting in the Herald article about the meeting. I suggest you do. But here’s a quick run down: Amos Harvey spoke before the board with some general observations about the new beer ordinance. His questions to the board were all things that everyone who questions this ordinance has been wondering since it’s inception: Why are certain businesses promised to be grandfathered in on only certain parts of the ordinance but not other parts of the ordinance?
Why is the consumer fined up to $1000 and 90 days in jail for ordering a beer without food when it is usually only a restaurant and server who is fined for not being in compliance with alcohol laws?
Why were the people who were originally responsible for asking for an exception to the original beer laws specifically asked not to attend the very Board of Alderman meeting in which the new beer ordinance was swiftly, unanimously, and without-discussion passed?
If there are so many exceptions given to this ordinance then who, exactly, is it trying to keep from buying beer? All reasonable stuff.
And Amos is a reasonable guy. He was there speaking on behalf of himself as a Water Valley citizen, not any organization. He introduced himself and his kids to the Board (yes, I brought the kids…not only do I think it’s important to let them see the beauty of democracy in action but I also can’t afford a baby sitter after paying my taxes, which pay these guy’s salaries). Amos was just up there speaking as a hardworking family man living in this town. Because that’s what he is.
Amos always keeps his cool and has been around this world (literally) for 20 years dealing with all sorts of hot heads in all sorts of languages so it’s no skin off his back when someone gets riled up. But for those of us watching the the City Attorney going bonkers on one of us (as in a Water Valley citizen, as John Crow made very clear, and with great relish, that there is a difference between citizens and the Board he represents) well, it was pretty awful.
I’m not going to go over what was said as all that is sited in the aforementioned article. What is most important here is what was NOT said.
Board of Aldermen, I am speaking directly to you right now: This is the free-world. You are allowed to speak. You are allowed to have opinions and you are allowed to take charge of your own meeting. In fact, as you might remember, we elected you to speak for us. And If you won’t be our voice, then we have to depend on ourselves, send in one of our own. And this is what happens.
That entire room was baffled with what YOUR attorney was doing. Some of you looked physically uncomfortable during the exchange. You should have told that angry man not to speak to one of your constituents with such disdain and disrespect. You should have told him to shut the [whatever your preferred word…I have a good suggestion if you can’t think of one] up and that you don’t speak to your reasonable, hard-working citizens like that.
You should have said that, yes, discussion, compromise, and debate are what city politics are all about but that you listen and care and are concerned for Water Valley and that you don’t snap like a short-leased dog when someone reaches out to you with calmly-stated, reasonable questions about your decisions that affect them. You should have said that you won’t be a part of a good cop/bad cop routine because no one is under arrest here. And, my goodness, do you really need a lawyer to speak to your constituents for you?
Kudos to Alderman Larry Bell who spoke up. Toss that man a cold beer.