Last Monday the Regional Development Agency changed its bylaws and removed Mayor Chuck Shaheen as chairman, replacing him with City Council member Mike Daley.
Early the following morning Shaheen went on radio and said it was a move by brothers Daron and Gary Lee to grab power in the city and take him down a notch.
Two days later, a special meeting of the council and RDA to discuss options for the proposed law enforcement center descended into chaos as residents openly scolded council members for not getting behind and supporting Shaheen. Council member Bob Wilbanks brought up Shaheen’s radio appearance, and he countered with a veiled threat to make public a letter he received from Gary Lee, the RDA executive director. The heat was rising and tempers were at the boiling point as the meeting ended.
The next morning, Shaheen sent a letter to Lee, asking him to resign. Lee has said he will not.
Also last week, city council member John Williams responded to an e-mail asking him to resign by making a personal visit to the person’s home at 8:30 p.m., unsettling the occupants.
After a weekend break, there was confusion aplenty early this week as council members were sent a notice Monday they were to meet Tuesday afternoon with members of the Houston County grand jury. Tuesday morning, however, the meeting was cancelled.
What is going on in the International City?
It’s certainly not governance as per the city’s charter. It seems to be one incident after another of politics taking precedence over policy.
The mayor is basically in open warfare with the city council, and the city’s reputation is becoming collateral damage. Some are comparing our situation to that suffered by Macon a couple of years back when C. Jack Ellis held the mayor’s post. The back-and-forth that went on between him and the city council made the city the butt of not-too-friendly jokes.
We don’t need that in this critical time. Robins Air Force Base is in the running to be the bed-down location for the MC-12W, the Air Force’s newest intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Should the base get it, it would mean about 600 additional airmen and up to 150 more contract support personnel. In plain talk, it’s about jobs and increasing our tax base. Who wouldn’t want that? But it seems our city government is going out of its way to put our worst foot forward for the Site Inspection Team, which was here last week.
City government is in the hands of rookies, with a new mayor and three new council members, all holding elected office for the first time. The remaining three council veterans have yet to step up and mentor the newbies and instead are viewed as having their own agenda, the city be damned.
It’s petty politics that can have a profound impact on us who are watching from the sidelines. City council meetings this year have been well attended compared with years past, but instead of a civics lesson people are treated to an at-times two-bit TV reality show.
The mayor and the council members have their strengths and weaknesses, but having a thin skin can be deadly in politics. No matter what position you’re in, you cannot take things personally. It’s unseemly for we normal folks, just plain ugly for politicians. Unfortunately, Mayor Shaheen is demonstrating that he will brook no opposition as he tries to put his vision for the city into focus. He has yet to adjust to the realities of his job and instead comes across as someone who’ll take his toys and leave the playground if he doesn’t like what’s taking place around him. He’s a better man than that and he has to show he understands that politics is the art of compromise.
You’re not going to win all the time, so take losses in stride and learn from the experience. It will make you a better politician, a more capable executive and help put on more positive face for the city.