November 9, 2017 11:27:15 AM
The elected officials of Columbus have many obligations, among them the responsibility to promote public safety, often through policy decisions.
But, there are cases where that worthy goal can be compromised by bad policy, well-intentioned as it may be.
Tuesday evening, we saw a case in point when the city council adopted an ordinance that, for all practical purposes, has shut down the Premier Lounge.
The decision came as a response to a Saturday incident in which Columbus Police Department patrolman Jared Booth shot and killed Raymond Davis, 24, in a parking lot adjacent to the club.
According to police, Booth's body camera showed Davis pointed a gun at Booth before the fatal shots. The incident is being investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
The council's response to that shooting may have been well intentioned, but it is wrong.
The ordinance the city passed by a 4-2 vote Tuesday is crafted so narrowly that it could only be applied to one business, a fact that both city attorney Jeff Turnage and city code enforcement director Kenny Wiegel acknowledged.
The council's action is an unfair manipulation of its codes, which govern what types of businesses can operate in certain areas. It is potentially illegal, as well, if the club owners can prove that the city's decision was intended to punish their business.
We understand Saturday's tragedy is something our city leaders should respond to.
In previous cases where shootings have occurred, the city has worked with owners of businesses to enact measures that helped make those establishments safer. Evidence shows this to have been an effective approach.
In this case, the club owners were not given a fair opportunity to work with the city to find reasonable solutions. We do not know why the city has deviated from the previous approaches, but we fear the sort of overreach we saw Tuesday night needs to be reconsidered.
The precedent established Tuesday that says the city can use its codes and ordinances to single out a legitimate business is troubling, a point made clear by councilman Stephen Jones, who voted against the ordinance.
"Where will we stop?" Jones asked.
At this point, the honest answer is no one knows.
It may be up to the whim of the council.
Is anyone good with that?
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