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- 2012 - October - 16th -

Attempt to change Council leadership process by alternating parties fails in committee

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

Legislation that would ensure City Council presidents would not be from the same political party in consecutive years was overwhelmingly voted down Monday, but its sponsor said offering the ordinance is meant to raise awareness.

Council member Reggie Brown, a Democrat, offered the ordinance and told the Council Rules Committee on Monday he did because of concerns that arose during the last election process.

Council President Bill Bishop and Council Vice President Bill Gulliford, both Republicans, were elected unanimously by the 19-member body in May.

Brown also briefly discussed “a group of people in particular who felt we were not recognized” at the committee level.

Brown and Council members Denise Lee, Warren Jones and Kimberly Daniels, all Democrats and black, have had meetings with Bishop in the past several months regarding their committee appointments and have asked for more minority representation on the Council Rules and Finance committees.

Daniels was appointed chair of the Council Public Health and Safety Committee.

Brown said he had heard that the legislation “would fall on its face” but that no one could dispute its merits. He said legislation would force discussion.

Under the legislation, Council members who wanted to run for president-designate could not be of the same political party or affiliation of the previous president-designate.

It was defeated 1-5, with Council member and Republican Robin Lumb in support.

“When there are laws or rules in place, if you’re not convinced it’s in your best interests you have to challenge those rules,” Brown told the committee.

He talked about conversations with former Council member Art Graham, who serves on the state’s Public Service Commission, about why he never sought Council leadership. Brown said Graham told him he did, but the process was undermined. Graham served on Council from 2003-07 and from 2007 to parts of 2009 and 2010.

Brown also said that political parties are destroying “the fabric of America” and that all people should be equally represented.

Lumb said he thought the Council was essentially nonpartisan in its duties. He said that though he has a great deal of respect for Brown, he thought the legislation “takes us in the wrong direction.”

Gulliford said he thought the legislation would be polarizing.

If elected by his peers to succeed Bishop as the next president, Gulliford said he would give each Council member a questionnaire so he could find out the committees and leadership positions each member sought.

“We haven’t been asked ‘where do your interests lie?’” Gulliford said.

He said there were other means to accomplish what Brown seeks to do through the legislation and that he would attempt to level the playing field as much as possible.

Council member John Crescimbeni, a Democrat, also said he would vote against the measure, saying it is contrary to voting for the best candidate.

Council member Jim Love, a Republican, also said he was in disagreement with the legislation, and agreed with Gulliford’s idea of there being a better way.

“I’m open to listening, but this is not a better way,” Love said.

Brown said the discussion needed to be ongoing to help “unveil these problems” that aren’t necessarily racial, but partisan.

“I just want us to think about it,” he said.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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