June 7, 2012 9:52:37 AM
"I don't make jokes,'' Will Rogers once said. "I just watch the government and report the facts.''
Rogers' observation would be less funny if it were less true.
Recently, the Columbus City Council meetings have taken on the aura of theater - theater of the absurd, to be more accurate.
Tuesday's meeting may have reached a comedic crescendo, an unlikely farce in which one council member stood defiantly against the majority on the subject of paving in his own backyard.
There is nothing funny about paving roads, of course. In fact, for a local office-holder, potholes are often the standard by which he or she is measured. There is a name for a politician who regularly keeps those potholes filled: Incumbent.
Conversely, the office-holder who neglects his streets imperils his political prospects.
If there were a primer for Local Politicians, Chapter 1 would be devoted to taking care of the roads.
Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem apparently did not read that book. Perhaps he is writing a new book. In either event, Karriem's vote against paving projects in his own ward is mystifying at best, petty politics at worst.
Why Karriem would vote against paving in his own ward is anyone's guess. Perhaps his interest in road work begins and ends with faux gaslights and brick crosswalks along Seventh Avenue.
It certainly wasn't a matter of being fiscally responsible, for there is plenty of money available for such, a wondrous thing in these austere times.
Mayor Robert Smith informed the council on Tuesday that there was roughly $1.4 million in general obligation bond money available and proposed that $1 million of it be divided equally among the six wards. The remainder - $432,000 - would be used to pave parking lots at Catfish Alley, the Hitching Lot, the Riverwalk and Trotter Convention Center. The County has agreed to do the actual paving at the Hitching Lot and Trotter, with the city on the hook for only the cost of the asphalt.
All four of those parking areas are in Karriem's ward.
When the matter was put to a vote, the council voted 4-2 in favor of the paving, with Karriem and Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens opposed.
It seems clear that Karriem and Mickens have become close allies, with the mayor being the common enemy.
That happens in politics. Alliances are made as a matter of course. But when those alliances threaten to undermine good public policy, the public loses. Self-interests should never trump public interests.
It seems to reaching that point on the Columbus council. If ever there should have been a unanimous yes vote on a project, this should have been it. All of those venues are used by citizens throughout the city. They are hardly pet projects.
Fortunately, the paving will get done.
Next week, the council will vote on the wholesomeness of apple pie.
A 4-2 vote is expected.