April 11, 2010 12:41:00 AM
Mayor Robert Smith wants the record set straight. As almost anyone with a pulse in this part of the state now knows, Smith and Councilman Kabir Karriem got into a scuffle in the foyer of City Hall on the evening of April 1. Smith says Karriem''s version of events is untrue, and he has evidence to prove it.
Smith was angry because Karriem had put on the council agenda a discussion of funding for a project that would transform the old Tombigbee River bridge into a pedestrian walkway. To get the $2 million MDOT has made available for the restoration, the city and county must come up with 20 percent of the money, $400,000.
Karriem, who has questioned the project and is widely perceived as a political adversary of Smith''s, wanted to discuss how the project will be funded. Smith, who is rightly proud of the Riverwalk and sees the bridge as more of the same, was angry when he saw the item on the council agenda. Smith phoned Karriem that evening to express his displeasure.
What exactly was said during that conversation is in dispute. Karriem alleges the mayor used harsh language before hanging up on him. Unable to get the mayor back on the phone, Karriem drove downtown, obviously intending to confront the mayor.
Words were exchanged and someone put his finger in someone''s face and a skirmish ensued. Councilman Gene Taylor was present and is thought to have witnessed most of the fight. Karriem''s brother, Ahmed, showed up while the altercation was in progress. Kabir says his brother just happened to be across the street at the post office at the time. Others say Ahmed was waiting in the car for his brother.
Karriem has portrayed Smith as the protagonist. He told this newspaper he had proof Smith started the ruckus; Karriem said he had been on the phone with another unnamed councilman for the duration of the skirmish.
This was untrue, and Smith had proof that it was.
At some point during the struggle, Karriem''s cell phone activated its most recently dialed number, which happened to be Smith''s. Smith, of course, was indisposed. The call went to voicemail, and much of the skirmish was recorded on Smith''s BlackBerry. We''ve heard the recording and can report Karriem didn''t express himself in a manner he would want his mama or, for that matter, any of his constituents to hear.
The recording sounds like a fight among half a dozen cats. Coming from Karriem, we heard, "Give me my GD watch" and "This is going to make the GD paper." Nothing Smith said was discernible.
The fight was short and though Karriem was bloodied, no one seemed seriously hurt. At the urging of his family, Karriem went to the emergency room. Karriem pressed charges, and later, so did Smith.
At the urging of friends and supporters, the two men before Tuesday''s council meeting apologized to each other, albeit halfheartedly, and agreed to drop charges. Thursday they signed documents prepared by local attorney Wil Colom to do that.
We''re not sure either man fully realizes the harm their actions have done to perceptions of the city and to people''s opinion of them. Can they recover from this? In part, that''s up to them.
Our leaders must realize bullying and intimidation is no way to run a city. In doing so, you alienate people and in time lose your ability to govern.
One question remains: Will these two men, who vote to uphold punishment of city employees for inappropriate behavior, support similar punishment for themselves? If they care anything about their credibility, they will.
JC commented at 4/11/2010 7:10:00 AM:
Slim commented at 4/11/2010 10:35:00 AM:
A protagonist is usually considered a hero. An antagonist would be an adversary.
Andrew Orr commented at 4/11/2010 10:42:00 AM:
I want the voicemail released to the public! lol.
no dope commented at 4/11/2010 10:51:00 AM:
gettin funky on the mic like an ole batch of collard greens.
still puzzeled commented at 4/11/2010 1:39:00 PM:
I agree with the Mayor , we need this record set straight but
After reading Smith's statement in article above, who are we to believe? They are both saying the other instigated the mess. So who is telling the truth? At this point I think we can't believe either one. If they have witnesses and recordings on phones -let the Judge use them to get to the bottom of this and show us who lying. We need to know the TRUE story for sure and hopefully the Judge will get this mess straight. Then real charges can be made, right?
gogetum commented at 4/11/2010 1:54:00 PM:
Good idea, Mr. Geiger. I think raises for the council and Mayor should be approved by the citizens , would be easy to put on ballots. Let them ask for a raise when they feel they have earned one and the Citizens(boss)can say yea or nay.
The reduction in pay should be approved by each person individually on the council and the Mayor for himself. Why not? If we feel they aren't earning the pay we can replace them come election time. These problems of childish actions or shenanigans, as you say, are reason enough to replace them. I think most of the people in Columbus feel the same .
!@#$$$# commented at 4/11/2010 5:29:00 PM:
Didn't they both agree before this statement to drop the charges and "neither one of them discuss the issue again at any time"?
gogetum in order for the election to be used to vote out someone you would have to assume that the voters in that precinct are intelligent enough to vote out the official in question. If you called for everyone to vote out both Smith a Karriem what would probably happen is his supporters would lack the intelligence to accept that Karriem's behavior was inappropriate. However it would be more likely the Smith would be moved but Karriem would be allowed to stay which would be slightly unfair.
I believe Smith but have no trust in Karriem. Karriem would probably come out on top if the public requested they both be voted out. That's where an intelligence test would be very helpful in determining who has the right to vote. The person voting should be able to pass a test based on a certain amount of reasoning.
"In the statement, the city officials also pledge to drop simple assault charges against each other and agreed to make "no further comments or publications about the incident."
Sounds like they are lying to the citizens of Columbus.
JC commented at 4/12/2010 7:26:00 AM:
That's where an intelligence test would be very helpful in determining who has the right to vote.
And maybe some kind of tax that people pay at the poll... yeah, that's the ticket
Michael commented at 4/12/2010 11:19:00 AM:
The City will FINE Police Officers and FIRE Firefighters when they do something wrong BUT the Mayor and City Councilmember get off with a few words that only passed by a 3 - 2 vote. PLEASE!!!!! The Mayor and ALL the City Council Members should resign. We need to hold a special election to replace them or re-elect them.
enlightenment commented at 4/12/2010 9:05:00 PM:
Michael: I bet the Police Officers and Firefighters were white. Am I right?
walter commented at 4/13/2010 1:02:00 PM:
The action of the attorney in helping to bring about reconciliation between two of the most significant city elected-officials is as important as any legal services ever performed by any attorney in the history of the city. Atty. Colom is owed a great debt of gratitude and history will record another important incident in which he has made a positive contribution to the progressive development of the city and county. Although he didn't do it seeking praise, I think I express the sentiment of all who want only the best for the city, in thanking him.
Although I'm no attorney, the advice of a close friend who is, might be instructive: The Honorable Mayor and The Honorable Councilman should be reminded that because they're genuinely concerned about making a difference, and they can only do so united, persons hellbent on making sure that they do not make a difference know they can prevent you from making a difference, only, if they can keep you divided and suspicious of each other.
14/88 commented at 4/13/2010 4:05:00 PM:
One of the officers, Robert Walker, was black.
14/88 commented at 4/13/2010 4:08:00 PM:
I believe Kabir's buttwhoopin' may have been just what was needed...this incident, no matter how childish, shows these people are human, capable of making mistakes, let's just hope they realize this and strive to better themselves if nothing else, in the eyes of the public.
Charles Tate commented at 4/13/2010 5:51:00 PM:
Charles Tate | 4/13/2010 5:25:00 PM mark as inappropriate
I'm from Columbus,Ms,yet live in Colorado at the moment. I'm educated and dedicated to the cause and effect of political suicide or public humiliation and the redemption from both points of view. People are quick to judge one another, yet never one-self. It's not about the color of ones skin that determines if he or she has made a bad decision. Robbing the the people comes in all forms, whether it be monetary,mahem,madness or as my "Mother" use to say "Acting a Monkey". I just Quoted a term that is considered " Racist ", by some and offensive to others. I'm first of all a Man and then African American, so judge me first as a Man. I remember Marion Barry the "Man" that made a grave error, I also remember Marion Barry, the re-elected Mayor of Washington D.C., who evidently was forgiven. I'm not telling anyone what to do, just telling you what I'm trying to say! P.S. If President Nixon was still alive, we would still be paying his way through life and "We The People" fired him...Imagine That.
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5. Editorial cartoon for 11-25-15 NATIONAL COLUMNS