I have been around for a long time, but I have never seen so much drama in a city as small as Midway. The city council was scheduled to take up several important issues at the August monthly meeting, among them are the city charter (dormant for 3½ years), the animal-control ordinance and the transient merchant, peddlers and solicitors ordinance (unfinished for two years).
These documents were drafted by City Attorney Richard Braun, who was absent and unavailable to answer questions from the council. It appears that he also is representing the city of Pembroke and their meeting is on the same day. He didn’t have anyone from his office represent him at Midway’s meeting.
The council was supposed to vote on the two ordinances, but because the attorney had not finalized them, the vote was delayed.
The most important topic, the new city charter, was to undergo the first of two reviews, but one of the council members was absent and another became ill. The charter is only now being finalized after it was sent to the council for review 3½ years ago. In June 2010, council members Terry Doyle and Melice Gerace submitted their recommendations, but as far as I know, no one else responded.
And the drama goes on. I was able to get a copy of the suggested changes to the charter, which was dated 1955 with only six known amendments since then. There may be more, but if so, they disappeared. The original city limit was to be one circular mile from the well at the old church. Obviously, that has changed over the years, but some of the city boundary adjustments do not seem to be documented in the city files.
One issue that really stands out is the mayor’s attempt to consolidate her power. Dr. Clemontine Washington wants all committees, chairs and officers of the city council to be appointed by the mayor and to serve at the pleasure of the mayor. She forgets that the members of the city council are elected by the people to watch over the city’s business. They’re not appointed by her.
The city charter identifies the mayor as the chief executive officer. A CEO is a corporate executive responsible for the operation of a firm, but he or she reports to a board of directors. In a city, the mayor is accountable to the city council; this — like a board of directors — keeps the mayor in check.
Presently, three members of the council make up a quorum for meetings, but the mayor wants the charter changed so that a quorum would consist of three council members and the mayor, which means that no business could be conducted in her absence. Is this dumb or dumber?
The mayor also wants to have the ability to terminate employees hired or appointed by the council. No employee should be subject to termination by a single individual without review and approval from a human-resources office or — in this case — the approval of the city council. Otherwise, the mayor can exert too much power over city employees. The mayor’s actions must be checked by the council.
The mayor’s proposed changes are designed to increase her power and diminish the authority of city council members, whom you elected to represent your interests and to be your voice in the city.
Calderone is a conservative who lives in Midway. He is a professional salesperson and has written articles for trade publications in various fields for 30 years.