Avoiding a political football

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, October 16, 2008

As I awaited the presidential debate Wednesday night, I decided to watch our local political leaders of the City Council perform their monthly ritual.

The good news was that the city’s bond ratings have improved. And why not? Earlier in the day I received my real estate tax bill to discover an increase of 9.14 percent in taxes due by Dec. 5. Well, I felt relieved to know that I was improving the bond rating by giving more to the city.

What I really desire to address is what happened next at the council meeting. Councilman Leroy Bennett proposed a grant/gift/infusion to the ICCA of $1500 to help in their expenses.

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What a great time to present this! Our bond rating is improving, all the residents of the city are pouring more money into the city coffers via real estate and personal property taxes, and we need to start giving it away as soon as possible to the first group to ask for it (just prior to the election of our council and the first elected mayor).

I am all for ICCA and what it represents. I grew up in the old city of Suffolk during the age when each inner-city neighborhood had a park with counselors or park leaders. When the summer ended, so did the counselors’ jobs. Children drifted to the unsupervised facilities provided by the parks, or they walked or biked to the Birdsong Recreation Center for organized fall and winter activities.

Now, to the political point of this letter. The proposal from Councilman Leroy Bennett grew to $3000 and then to $6000 via Councilman Charles Brown’s proposal. Attempting to keep the matter from becoming a political issue, councilman Parr suggested tabling it until the Nov. 5 meeting, a day after the election.

But Mayor Linda Johnson smelled votes. At first, she wanted more information on the proposed motion and, judging from her body language and comments, was against the proposal.

Amid all the confusion, the council had to vote first on tabling the issue until Nov. 5; the motion failed. Mayor Johnson saw a chance to sway the inner city voters her way.

Then came the vote on Councilman Bennett’s original request, and Mayor Johnson voted “Yes,” along with three other members. “Success!” she must have thought. “I have seized the inner-city vote!”

Mike Debranski would have agreed with councilman Parr: Table this until Nov. 5 to keep it from becoming a political football.