Article Comment 

Fisticuffs at City Hall: ‘It’s embarrassing; it’s humiliating’

 

 

"I am humbled by the support and trust placed in me. ... (that trust) will guide every action I take ... I want you to know that I will continue to be a mayor who takes responsibility and leads by example. 

 

"We''re here (today) because we are committed to making Columbus a great city, to rise above our differences, to meet our collective challenges ..." 

 

-- Mayor Robert Smith at his swearing-in ceremony, July 3, 2009 

 

 

 

 

 

When we first heard about it, we thought it was an April Fools'' joke. In one sense it was; in this case, the tricksters, happened to be Mayor Robert Smith and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem. The joke is on the people and the city of Columbus. 

 

And it''s far from a laughing matter. 

 

On the evening of April 1 around 9:30, Smith and Karriem got into a fist fight in the front hallway of City Hall. Not surprisingly, Smith, a former college football standout, who maintains a rigorous exercise schedule, sent the councilman to the emergency room. 

 

It''s no secret that the two are political rivals. The councilman is frequently mentioned as a mayoral challenger to Smith. 

 

Reportedly, the fight was fueled by differences the two have over how the city would provide its share of the match required for the MDOT grant to restore the old river bridge. The cause of the fight hardly matters. 

 

It''s difficult to overstate the harm this does to perceptions of the city. By behaving like street thugs, Smith and Karriem, who are both black, reinforce unfortunate, though widely held racial stereotypes. 

 

As Columbus'' first black mayor, Smith shouldered an added burden. Until Thursday evening, he had borne that responsibility reasonably well. 

 

Friday afternoon Smith was arrested and charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor. 

 

We''re disappointed that the two men have gone into hiding. How much better would it have been for them to make a joint apology immediately. Karriem has said he intends to hold a press conference on Monday. 

 

Said one visitor in The Dispatch front office Friday afternoon: "It''s embarrassing; it''s humiliating." 

 

We couldn''t agree more. 

 

She continued: "They should both be so embarrassed, they should resign. The whole town had faith in them; elected them to do a job and this is what we get." 

 

Smith and Karriem''s antics are one more example of our elected officials playing fast and loose with the city and county''s good name. A fist fight in City Hall, somehow, makes those dustups seem trite. We doubt either man will be able to regain the trust of the people to the point they will ever be effective, respected leaders. 

 

Smith and Karriem have embarrassed, humiliated and betrayed the people of Columbus. If this is leading by example, we, indeed, have troubled times ahead.

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment so tired commented at 4/4/2010 12:53:00 AM:

Im sure the white citizens of columbus are having a field day with this one. Its is very embarrassing, but who is perfect? They both reacted in the heat of the moment. Are they perfect? No, theyre human. Because theyre black, though its going to be made into something huge because all the white people needed was one dumb thing to support their argument that blacks shouldnt be in leadeship anyway. I dont think either of these guys owe us anything, and because they are elected officals, does not mean that they are not humans and do make mistakes as they all do. Move on Columsbus, geez.

 

Article Comment so embarrased commented at 4/4/2010 7:03:00 AM:

So our black citizens shouldn't be concerned, what an embarrassing position. As elected officials they should be setting an example for the city and especially our black citizens. The least they could have done was to man-up and apologize Friday, but they both ran and hid. I would expected as much from Karriem, but wouldn't have thought the Mayor would respond in-kind. They've fired lower level city employees for much less. Their little turf war could cost the area much needed new jobs/tax revenue, in these tough economic times, that's inexcusable. Yeah they owe us something, their resignations, then Columbus can move on.

 

Article Comment GC commented at 4/4/2010 7:21:00 AM:

Oh, please! Don't play the race card. I wouldn't care if they were white. They acted like low classes trash and should resign. If they don't resign, action should be taken to remove them.

 

Article Comment D. Turner commented at 4/4/2010 8:56:00 AM:

I think the fight just portrays the violent spirit of Columbus. As an outsider looking in I have found Columbus to be a very violent town. Sure, there are some great people here, but the rate of crime for Columbus's size is absolutely appalling & don't let me get on the sheer number of physical assults & outright murders we have here. It's out of control for such a small town & this fight is just yet another facet of Columbus's tendency toward violence, which is very sad indeed. May God bless all the readers & may God bless (& hopefully deliver) this town.

 

Article Comment thomas commented at 4/4/2010 4:54:00 PM:

Most would hold both of them to a higher standard than the average citizen, however let the Judge and/or court deal with them just as they would with any public display of violence and injury, no favors or influence from any source. As for being public officals, the very least would be a sincere apology from both including reconciliation, both should be ashamed and embarassed with a Dispatch Large Thorn for this disgraceful conduct.

 

Article Comment TD commented at 4/4/2010 9:45:00 PM:

We're going to find out this week who these two men really are - a leader or a ruler.

A leader will apologize for his mistake, resign immediately and do several hours of high profile community service as an example that violence is not the way to settle any dispute.

A power hungry ruler will concoct a story that he was the victim and blame the other person. This is the type of person that sees himself as better than everyone else. He puts himself above the law.

We'll find out this week exactly where each man stands.

 

Article Comment out da loop commented at 4/5/2010 10:09:00 AM:

I lived in Columbus from 07-08 and now my job has relocated my family back here. I may be mistaken, but haven't both of the guys done good things for the city? I know that they've paved some roads, sidewalks, and didn't they even work together to get the very MDOT grant that the dispute was about? Like I said, I've been away for a few years, what they did was wrong and publicized. What about the right they've done, will we ever hear about that? We just moved here from Memphis, and even though this is pitiful, ya'll Memphis is worst.

 

Article Comment MB commented at 4/5/2010 12:03:00 PM:

This has nothing to do with being black or white. This is about two grown men acting like children. Neither one is setting a good example for the young people in Columbus be they black or white. They both should be ashamed of themselves.

 

Article Comment D. Turner commented at 4/5/2010 6:42:00 PM:

Mayor Smith has done some good things for this town but Karriem has done nothing but cause trouble. Wasn't it he who like to got killed for dallying with another man's wife? Then the misuse of city issued cell phone? Now picking a fight with Mayor Smith & THEN trying to sell his story to the media? As far as I'm concerned Karriem needs to get out of politics & do it quickly. Columbus would be so much the better for it if he did. Mayor Smith, keep up the good work & maybe one day this town will be enjoyable to live in.

Blessings to all.

 

Article Comment D. Turner commented at 4/5/2010 6:43:00 PM:

Mayor Smith has done some good things for this town but Karriem has done nothing but cause trouble. Wasn't it he who like to got killed for dallying with another man's wife? Then the misuse of city issued cell phone? Now picking a fight with Mayor Smith & THEN trying to sell his story to the media? As far as I'm concerned Karriem needs to get out of politics & do it quickly. Columbus would be so much the better for it if he did. Mayor Smith, keep up the good work & maybe one day this town will be enjoyable to live in.

Blessings to all.

 

Article Comment help us lord commented at 4/5/2010 10:17:00 PM:

You got the wrong K man. But you got the right K family. There is a lot of them so watch out what you say. We got a lot of hard times coming. We going to need a lot of help from the Lord our God. Pray for our town for sure. We need MrTrotter back he was a good man for sure.

 

Article Comment Jane S. commented at 4/6/2010 10:10:00 PM:



CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS ABSURDITY -
I read Steve Rogers' article with interest this evening. It has become impossible for me not to say what should be said. First - Mayor Smith, please proof read your letters. There are several errors in punctuation, capitalization rules are violated, you shouldn't use "on Thursday night," etc. Since you were trained as a school teacher you should be familiar with these rules of English. I am sure many an old English teacher has had a good chuckle about this letter. (Does anyone read the letters that you send to government officials at the state and federal level - if so they should be fired.) Second - the actions of these two men are so representative of the way Columbus has turned in the past several years that it is no wonder so many people are moving to surrounding areas such as Caledonia, New Hope, Starkville, etc. They want out just like my family did a few years ago. How can you convince people Columbus is a safe place for a family? Third -- The people of Mississippi do have some recourse in this matter. During the early 1900s the referendum, initiative, and recall were put in place. The latter allows citizens to petition the state for the removal of elected officials. I no longer live in Lowndes County but there are certainly many who could start such a petition. Fourth - Mr. Rogers points out punishment handed down to other city employees who made poor choices. There certainly needs to be punishment for this action. Fifth - Some good things have transpired in Columbus but events such as this and the actions of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors (I don't have enough space to cover that one)negate all that has been done.


In general - check your egos at the door and quit playing politics with the trust voters placed in you. In the next election I certainly hope they remember this and the ensuing insults to the intelligence of the people of Columbus by both parties. Put together a recall petition since neither seems to want to do the right thing for the people.

 

Article Comment D. Turner commented at 4/7/2010 5:21:00 PM:

"You got the wrong K man. But you got the right K family. There is a lot of them so watch out what you say."

This just goes to underscore my previous comments about the violence in Columbus. What is the "K family" going to do when someone simply points out the sad, bad truth about Karriem? Beat us up? Shoot us? If so, I can see where he got his ne'er-do-well tendencies. God bless the readers & God bless Columbus. It sure needs it.

 

Article Comment robert white commented at 4/8/2010 8:24:00 AM:

I like to see fat boys fight. I think the mayor and councilman should stage a re-match in the conference centre. I believe the city could raise a lot of badly needed money by charging $5 to spectators. If we took bets, I would bet on the mayor. To me Karim appears to be a fat whimp.

 

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