April 13, 2010 9:33:00 AM
The other day over a late lunch I asked my friend Amos C. his thoughts on the city hall dustup between Mayor Robert Smith and Councilman Kabir Karriem.
Amos asked me not to use his real name. Not that he''s timid or without learned opinions; years ago, he was active in the politics of a large southern city. Being relatively new to Columbus, he''s trying to keep a lower profile.
"This is much ado about nothing. It''s a pimple on an elephant''s ass," he said.
"Could I have a bowl of the mushroom and chicken soup with my salad?" I asked our waiter.
"This was a personal confrontation outside the course and scope of their employment," he said. "It is a personal matter."
"Will you hold the bacon on my salad," I said.
"Give me his bacon," Amos said.
"But, Amos, these are public officials. As representatives of our city, shouldn''t we expect them to be on their best behavior at all times?"
"This is one of our problems, not affording these people private lives," he said. "Look, you have a couple doctors get into a fight on the golf course; are you going to bar them from practicing medicine?"
"Surely you think they should levy some sort of punishment on themselves," I argued, knowing where this was going. "Maybe a month''s pay cut. After all, they are voting to suspend and fire city employees who misbehave. Wouldn''t it be the height of hypocrisy to not punish themselves?"
"I don''t consider a personal confrontation a punishable offense. I''m sure punishment for Mr. Smith is the shame and embarrassment.
"I''m not sure (Mr. Karriem) is regretful," he continued. "You don''t go to City Hall at 9:30 without the intent to provoke. He knew the mayor was tired and busy. Really, the idea of a public official working at 9:30 is impressive."
In case you''re wondering, Amos C. is solidly in Mayor Smith''s corner.
"Aren''t you being a little hard on Karriem?" I asked.
"My question to (Mr. Karriem''s) brother is, was the post office open at 9:30 and did he get his package mailed? Amos said laughing. "I wonder what their mother thinks of all this."
"So you think we should just get over this and go on," I asked, "without punishing anyone?"
"Frankly, if you want to punish someone, you should punish our legislative delegation for the way they acted over name change for The W. I was embarrassed. I would almost rather punish them for neglecting their duty."
Since we appeared to be moving away from City Hall, I asked about the widely publicized squabbling between Lowndes Supervisors Harry Sanders and Leroy Brooks.
"The Harry and Leroy thing is much worse because it is a public meeting where they are supposed to be performing services on behalf of the community."
"Do you think race played a role in public perception of this?" I asked.
"Look," Amos said, "If this had been two whites, we would not be saying, ''What do you expect.'' This kind of thing enables those who are so inclined to say that."
"But, doesn''t this kind of behavior reinforce long-held stereotypes some whites have and fear?"
"I''m sure Mr. Smith grew up in rough circumstances," he said. "This is a learning experience; I''m absolutely certain that he''s sorry it came to this, and that''s a plus. So he has some weak spots; God bless him."
"Where do we go from here?" I asked.
"It''s probably healthy that these two guys had this physical confrontation," he continued. "If you had a boil, you know how it feels when it finally pops -- it can begin to heal. This might have been the mildest eruption we could have hoped for."
Said as only Amos C. could have said it.
Birney Imes III is the Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch.
Thom Geiger commented at 4/13/2010 12:32:00 PM:
Birney, come on. I can remember very clearly a story that is almost part of local folklore nowadays, about how a local businessman who owned a one-of-a-kind business (some even say it was a monopoly) in the city, one that wielded much power and influence in almost every aspect of local life, not only in Columbus and Lowndes County, but in the state and even nationally, handled (or mishandled, depending on who tells the story) the first real business competition.
As I have heard it told, the businessman went to the competitor's place of business and called him out onto the street and threatened physical violence. Needless to say, the competition didn't last long. Whether that was due to the disapproval of the disgruntled owner of the monopoly or not, it is hard to say. Still, I have heard the story from several sources who claim to have proof the incident did indeed happen.
Does that sound familiar, Birney? THAT is a personal matter. The two individuals were self employed (a very key piece of the story) and on their own time (same here again). Two public officials, who made a conscious decision to run for public office, who, regardless of the "full time" or "part time" designation on their positions, are on taxpayer time and the taxpayers' dime until they no longer hold office. That makes anything they do with taxpayer resources (cell phones, fax machines, postage machines, computers, offices and furnishings, vehicles, etc.) 100% of the tapxayers' business. Anything that is done in a taxpayer owned building is taxpayer business, just as anything done at the Dispatch office is your business.
So let me ask you, keeping in mind that tale of the local business owner I mentioned previously, what would you do if two employees of the Dispatch were to engage in a physical fight in the front office of the newspaper? Need I ask? From what you APPEAR to be saying (in my opinion) through this piece is that it would be none of your business. Hhmm...
Michael commented at 4/13/2010 1:00:00 PM:
I agree with Thom. These guys are City Employees on City Property fighting over City Business. I do not see anything personal about it. Sounds like the Dispatch is trying to make this problem go away. Which is just what the Mayor and City Councilman would like to see happen.
walter commented at 4/13/2010 1:28:00 PM:
Mr. Imes, I suspect, like all other natural residents of our fair city, acknowledges that the incident was, indeed, unfortunate for the city and the elected-offials directly engaged. And, like all other intelligent citizens within the city, he's pragmatic enough to know that, if the voters are no longer confident that either, or both, of the men are capable of advancing the best interest of the city, then they're independent enough in their thoughts, to vote them out and vote in others, men or women, who they're confident are able to advance the best interest of the city.
Until there's a new election, or one of both elected-offials, has been legally and officially relieved of their duty, then, all who continue to inflame the matter are merely diverting their precious attention away from the city's pressing business. I, for one, am not interested in the least, in a businessman's business. That's his business. What I do know is this: we all imperfect creatures and subject to do imperfect things at imperfect times. Now is not a perfect time to continue to foster disunity between the mayor and the councilman and the efforts of the Publisher of this paper and any and all others who are trying diligently to table the matter, reflect the progressive spirit of some of Columbus' finest citizens and residents. It's not about the "businessman" and it isn't really about the elected-officials. In the final analysis, it's about the city residents and voters. Most, I would think, are intelligent enough to know that there's a time and place for everything. Most believe that now is the time to let the matter rest. Unless my intuition fails me, I think that is what Mr. Imes, muct to his credit, was attempting to do. If he was selfish and otivated only by $$$ signs, he would do everything within his power to keep the story going. He tried to close the door on the story and thus prove, at least for me, that Columbus, Lowndes County and the entire Golden Triangle is truly blessed to have an institution, originating from and continuing to develop, right there in it's midst. There reason for much optimism.
tom brown commented at 4/13/2010 1:33:00 PM:
these online comments / by concerned citizens etc.... the open public discourse / one of the most attractive aspects of the CD....this like all things will be forgotten as something else will appear to take its place and for columbus that won't be long...let the two men go about their business as public servants to the citizens of columbus..they know what they have to do....we are all human and make mistakes....the old saying "when you have a problem fix it and move on."
Thom Geiger commented at 4/13/2010 2:03:00 PM:
Fixing a problem denotes a solution to the problem, a finality to the situation, a correction of what happened in an event and a provision of some methodology to prevent something similar from happening again.
I have read many comments on what happened and most of the ones I agree with hold the view that there are more aspects, important aspects of this than merely a simple disagreement.
-Hypocrisy in this has been overt and blatant. Say one thing and do another.
-A double standard, one for the working class and one for the ruling class.
-a mindset from some that the taxpayers and voters have no say in this. That is particularly egregious since it's becoming more and more prevalent in our local government- from public school administration to city government administration.
-no preventative measures have been put into place to prevent another incident.
-what many consider as being no realistic or acceptable consequences for what happened.
-what exactly are young people supposed to get from this incident?
I challenge anyone, especially the usual lineup who don't like something just because it's my opinion, to answer these questions and those put out there by others. No double talk, no patriotic ambiguity, so single phrase quicky soundbites. Just common sense rational answers. Honest answers. Now THAT would be different for a change.
DANNY commented at 4/13/2010 9:46:00 PM:
Hey Walter pull another RACE card from your DECK. Or are you playing with a FULL DECK?
DANNY commented at 4/13/2010 9:47:00 PM:
Hey Walter pull another RACE card from your DECK. Or are you playing with a FULL DECK?
walter commented at 4/14/2010 12:07:00 PM:
Full, half-full or empty, fellow, you're not competent enough judge. Some cards were never re-shuffled or returned to the deck! But, just to entertain even a simpleton like you for a moment, cite or quote anything written above, by me, that remotely touched upon race. My comments above, for your information, pertained to human-nature and political pragmatism...Go play with someone else nearer your age and mentality, Danny! When you're cured or grow up, then join a conversation or dialogue among adults. Until, read, listen and learn!
I replied to you because I wanted to make certain you're aware that you're not dealing with a weaklin and that it would be in your best interest to know more about a writer before you address him or her in print...There are great counter-punchers who comment on this site. I'm one of them.
DANNY commented at 4/14/2010 1:53:00 PM:
Hey Walter, With that kind of counter punch you should train "BIG K" for the next round. You are right-full deck or 1/2 deck no difference. All the cards are the same.
Joseph commented at 4/14/2010 2:48:00 PM:
If we use the same logic and apply it to the Vicksburg incident, the officers would have been much better off to have just beat the crap out of the park ranger instead of doing nothing. Then they could have been excused by simply saying they are human, imperfect, and besides, it was personal.
Talk about a double standard! And anyone who thinks otherwise has to be biased or just plain stupid.
DANNY commented at 4/14/2010 9:06:00 PM:
As Walter would say: these are good men let them go FREE. The Policemen and the Firemen are bad men? He can not see anything but "ONE" thing. Take a guess!
dave commented at 4/15/2010 6:27:00 AM:
It's OVER folks. Go home and get to another subject. Dead horse. Did you really think something was going to come from this? Really!
BigAl commented at 4/15/2010 6:33:00 AM:
It's just another Great Columbus Cover-up. Nevermind that a law was broken. Nevermind that the city employee handbook was violated. Just get Birney to pass out some roses, and sweep this dust bunny under the nearest rug.
And Birney, the whole rose thing is starting to sound kinda gay.
BigJim commented at 4/15/2010 11:22:00 AM:
Much ado about very little, politicians are guilty of the same or worse everyday all over the country. Do you people keep up with events nationally or only read the Dispatch?
Big pete commented at 4/15/2010 11:47:00 AM:
How about that bridge I heard the Sanders boys are fighting over. I think Harry will take David out in the 2nd round. Then he can belly bump with Big K to see who runs againest Robert.
collette commented at 4/15/2010 11:57:00 AM:
I was mortified to learn of the fight, and deeply saddened to see the mayor's mug shot. How embarrassing! I wish they would both resign.
However, my real wish to have a mayor and other officials who speak well. We are represented by illiterate buffoons.
1. Voice of the people: Mayor Robert E. Smith Sr. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
3. Ray Mosby: Why community newspapers matter LOCAL COLUMNS