If you’ve ever wondered why things are as they are in Pine Bluff, all you need to do is attend one City Council meeting. You’ll get all the answers you need. Our august body has something for everyone: racism; incivility; ignorance to facts; special rules for special people; myopia; the grinding of old axes; the digging in of heels; willful blindness to reality; a lack of direction; a deficit of priorities; chaos …
In most backwater Third World countries when the government reaches this point, somebody gets hoisted in the public square. While nobody here deserves the Mussolini treatment, several members of our city council clearly need political defenestration.
It’s hard to believe that we may have reached that point where we look back on the good old days when council members just went to prison and the mayor was a hapless rube. Monday night’s meeting suggests we may have done exactly that.
One of the prime examples was offered by freshman council member Lloyd Holcomb Jr. Holcomb who has heretofore shown himself to be a soft-spoken man with the capacity to mend fences and inject reason, reached his limit — and with good reason. Even though Holcomb unwisely let himself be dragged into the racial divide regarding the department head residency debacle, he apparently had had enough.
As reported in the Commercial, he expressed his mounting dissatisfaction with the protracted disagreement, likening the back-and-forth fray to a game of “pingpong.”
Challenging earlier claims of white flight by fellow Alderman Glen Brown, Holcomb’s tone crescendoed: “You can’t make people live here.” He then stunned the audience of about 75 persons by nearly shouting that these arguments “don’t make any damn sense.”
Holcomb then declared that council “needs to abolish” current guidance with a compromise on fresh standards.
The assembled throng signaled its approval when Holcomb announced: “I’m sick of this foolishness.”
Amen, Rev. Holcomb.
Holcomb then confirmed something that many regular council onlookers already knew: Brown incessantly mutters throughout the meetings. So distracting is his persistent monologue that it encroaches on the council’s business. As Holcomb clarified, he struggles to hear the council’s business because he’s “got to listen” to Brown talking “in my ear” during the sessions. Then again, it’s well-established that decorum isn’t Brown’s strong suit.
As if present troubles weren’t sufficient, council member Thelma Walker thought it appropriate to visit the graveyard of issues past with a pointless diatribe on the selection process of Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks. The fact of the matter is this: Selection (and dismissal) of city department heads is the mayor’s sole prerogative. If Walker wants someone different, then she needs to get herself elected mayor. As that isn’t how it worked out, she needs to move on.
Furthering the slip into retrograde government, council member George Stepps harangued the decision to increase the Parks and Recreation Commission by two members. Stepps predicated his argument on tradition — the old “this is how we’ve always done it” argument. News flash: it’s no longer 1970. Things change. Sadly some council members haven’t. And just as obvious is the fact that the Parks and Recreation Commission, under its current structure, hasn’t operated all that well.
In short, we’re tired of the buffoonery that passes for local government. We have too much at stake to permit a continuation of this madness. While the good people of Pine Bluff errantly re-elected some of these folks, we’re pretty sure they didn’t intend this. As such, when you wonder why things are as they are, you ought to also ask yourself where the circus went — because it’s pretty clear it left some of the clowns behind.