... reverses course, again, again, again ...
War on Dumb by Kyle Whitmire
They voted for it before they voted against it, but not before they delayed voting against it a week, and then, once having voted against it, reconsidering that vote and then delaying another vote for another week, then finally voting for being against it, but then had the city council president declare the resolution dead for lack of a majority, only to have the city clerk inform her that the resolution actually passed with a 4-2-1 vote, a resolution to vote against it.
Confused? Everyone was. Following this one item through the Birmingham City Council is the loopy kind of roller coaster ride that leaves your lunch in your lap, but the course is indicative of what'92s wrong at Birmingham City Hall.
Several months ago, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford pitched his plan to revitalize Fair Park to the Birmingham City Council. The plan would build an '93Olympic-style village'94 at the run-down fairgrounds. Langford says it would all cost about $90 million (the same as VisionLand, although that was projected to cost only $25 million) and the city would put up about half of the money, which according to the mayor, the city already had.
Most of the money would come from funds the city had set aside for a domed stadium, but with the domed stadium becoming less and less a possibility, the mayor had to spend the new tax money somewhere else in the meantime.
However, $7.9 million of that money was to come from another source '97 an old bond deal that included infrastructure improvements, such as streetscapes, lighting and sidewalks, around the city'92s schools. The money had not yet been spent and to Mayor Langford, money not spent is money wasted.
So Langford asked the council to reallocate the money to the Fair Park project, saying it met the educational benefit that the bonds required. The council approved the mayor'92s plan.
They voted for it before '85
Still, some councilors were not comfortable taking the money away from schools, and the Birmingham school board wasn'92t happy with it at all. Councilor Roderick Royal argued that the city had made a promise and that the city should keep that promise. A week after the council had voted for moving the money to the Fair Park project, Royal made a resolution to rescind the transfer. In effect, he made a resolution that they vote against it.
However, some councilors were not ready to reverse course so quickly. The council delayed the motion a week, because when reversing hasty decisions, it'92s important not to be too hasty.
A week later, the council debated the issue for more than 90 minutes in a meeting that would ultimately last almost seven hours. Finally, the council voted in favor of Royal'92s resolution to rescind the previous resolution to move the money to Fair Park.
'85 they voted against it, but not before they delayed voting against it a week '85
After the vote, the council took a break so some members could use the bathroom and the council'92s video crew could put fresh tapes in their cameras. During the break, I spoke with Councilor Royal. He seemed pleased his resolution had passed, but I wasn'92t so sure his fight was over and I told him so.
'93They'92re going to reverse it again,'94 I said. '93Just watch.'94
When you spend seven years covering City Hall, premonitions like this one are common.
Sure enough, when the council reconvened from its 15-minute '93three-minute break,'94 Councilor Steven Hoyt moved to reconsider Royal'92s resolution to rescind the transfer to the fairgrounds project.
'85 and then, once having voted against it, reconsidering that vote '85
Councilor William Bell tried to work out a compromise with the mayor. Almost simultaneously, Bell and Langford arrived at the same idea: Instead of using the school streetscape money, the city councilors should take much of the money from their $1 million-a-piece discretionary funds to make up the difference. The mayor agreed to come back with the proposal, and several councilors outwardly appeared confused. In the end, they did what they do so often, they delayed the second vote on the resolution one week.
'85 and then delaying another vote for another week '85
By the following Monday, it was apparent that some councilors were not comfortable sacrificing their discretionary funds to help the schools. In a committee meeting, Councilor Miriam Witherspoon raised concerns that the schools would not make improvements in her district. Others, too, were rankled by the thought.
On Tuesday, the councilors returned to the issue for the fifth time. This time four councilors voted in favor of Royal'92s resolution to rescind, two voted against and one abstained. Two councilors were absent.
'85 then finally voting for being against it '85
The council'92s rules require a majority of those present, not a five-member majority, for a measure to pass. Nonetheless, after six and a half years on the dais, Council President Carole Smitherman declared the resolution failed.
'85 but then had the city council president declare the resolution dead for lack of a majority '85
Mayor Langford, peeved at the council thrashing about, blasted them for their inconsistency. Meanwhile the city clerk whispered in Smitherman'92s ear. A moment later, she pronounced the item approved with a 4-2-1 vote. In the end '97 if this is the end '97 Royal'92s resolution to rescind the transfer passed.
'85 only to have the city clerk inform her that the resolution actually passed with a 4-2-1 vote, a resolution to vote against it.
'93So let me understand this,'94 Langford said. '93The money is still '97 for Fair Park '97 the money'92s going back to the schools. That'92s my whole point. If we'92re not going to do this project, it'92s really making the whole city look bad if one week we pass it, the next week we come back and rescind it and the next week it'92s back on the agenda.'94
At last, Mayor Langford recognizes the truth.
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