So, there’s a communications problem between Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration and City Council. Quite frankly, it didn’t take a two day retreat at UGA to figure that one out. Communication between the mayor’s office and council has been a recurring theme in most all administrations. What was needed at the retreat was a solution, and unfortunately, a solution is difficult to craft when a quarter of the council members, Henry Ficklin, Charles Jones, Lonnie Miley and Elaine Lucas didn’t bother to attend the first evening session. Only six were present for all the sessions.
While Reichert was charged with trying to find a majority of eight to vote with him on issues, the facilitator from UGA’s Institute of Government, Murray Weed, said that was a necessary part of the political process. What Weed didn’t understand about Macon’s council is that some members decide issues -- not based on the issue’s merits -- but on personalities and how someone may have voted on a previous issue a decade ago.
Council President James Timley called the council members who generally side with the mayor, a “caucus.” What he didn’t say is that there is also a caucus that generally opposes the mayor, a caucus some would say Timley is a member of.
The down and dirty facts are that there are factions on council and those factions have been on display for four years. Some council members are still smarting from the vote in December that put Councilman Charles Jones on the Committee of Committees with Timley and Council Pro Tem Larry Schlesinger.
Jones and Schlesinger were accused of violating the Open Meetings Law because their respective lists for committee members and chairpersons were almost identical. The city attorney, replying to a request from the state attorney general’s office, said no violation took place. Timley shot a letter questioning the quality of the city attorney’s investigation and her professionalism.
Jones or Schlesinger didn’t have to meet to come up with a common list. You can bet that had Ficklin been elected to the Committee of Committees as proposed instead of Jones, the lists that he and Timley would have come up with would have also been very similar.
Our advice to the mayor for the next four years is not just to count to eight, but to six, the number of votes needed to sustain a veto.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board