Mayor Cites "Failed Candidates" in Remarks About City Hall Questions
On Tuesday night, Covington Mayor Sherry Carran took an unusual approach to start the regular city commission meeting, opting to read a statement before the meeting began.
She said that she wanted to address the perception that questions would no longer be allowed during the public comments portion of city commission meetings following a short exchange between the mayor and former city commissioner Michelle Williams at the previous meeting. At that meeting, which was more than four hours long thanks to an appeal hearing for a proposed piece of infill housing in an historic district, Williams approached the podium during public comments with a list of questions. Carran told her that the time was reserved for comments only and that questions should be directed to commissioners or staff via email, telephone, or after meetings.
Williams, since being ousted from the city commission by Covington voters last November, has appeared frequently at commission meetings with questions, as have other unsuccessful candidates and Williams allies. Those unsuccessful candidates circulated an online petition for two weeks, garnering just over 170 signatures, urging the mayor to reinstate questions at the end of public meetings.
A small protest led by the candidates and some of their supporters took place outside City Hall prior to the meeting.
Carran began her remarks by celebrating a successful weekend of volunteerism in the city that included a city-wide clean-up effort and the installation of a new playground at Goebel Park. She also pointed to the many buildings under renovation downtown and the hundreds of jobs on the way at a new St. Elizabeth treatment facility that will be constructed in the city.
Things are improving in Covington, she said. "But we are not out of the woods yet as we were hit unusually hard by the economic downturn and the loss of two major employers. It has taken strong, steady, responsible, and serious leadership to put Covington back on the right track. It will continue to take strong, steady, responsible, and serious leadership to make some more difficult decisions in the coming weeks as we craft our next budget," the mayor said. "In November, the people of Covington went to the polls and selected the four commissioners up here to serve with me, and to offer that serious leadership necessary for the challenges we face.
"At the last commission meeting, I should have framed my comments to a failed commission candidate differently when she started to speak during the public comment period when she said, 'I have quite a few questions to ask'. In the days that followed, other failed candidates and their supporters seized on the situation to capitalize politically using many different tactics. I want to reiterate that comments and questions from our citizens are important to this commission and to staff and that is why we are easily accessible anytime of the week by phone call or by email to answer questions or emails. We will continue to take public comments at the end of our meetings and meet with people at the end of our meetings for further discussion if needed.
"Regarding questions, I was mistaken in how I framed my comment at the last meeting but it was an attempt to establish decorum of order."
Questions would be permitted, she said, but the comment period was not designed to pepper elected officials and city staff.
Williams attended the meeting but declined to speak after her name was called during the public comment period. "I will email my questions to you," Williams told the mayor from the crowd.
Unsuccessful city commission candidates Brandon Mims and Michael Brosmore spoke at the meeting and former city commissioner Mildred Rains, who also lost in November's election, attended. The petition online was circulated by unsuccessful candidate Christi Blair.
Carran concluded her opening remarks by saying, "I also want to reiterate that we have seized momentum in Covington and this commission that was elected by the voters in November will continue to make the difficult and serious choices that times like these call for. This is not a time for political games. This is a time for leadership."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher