Voice of the people: John Brocato

July 30, 2013 10:01:30 AM



Like many of my fellow Starkvillians, I'm upset by the Board of Aldermen's unprofessional handling of City Administrator Lynn Spruill's firing. I became even more upset when I read The Starkville Dispatch's account of last Tuesday's Board of Aldermen meeting (7/23/13), particularly Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver's theocratic response to the issue at hand, a response that, sadly, reminds me of Ward 6 Alderman Roy Perkins' comment, at a hearing years ago on Sunday alcohol sales, that he thought we needed a law requiring people to go to church on Sundays: 


"Aldermen neither went behind closed doors to discuss the personnel move, nor gave a public reason beyond [Ward 1 Alderman Ben] Carver's admission that he 'prayed about it' and 'made his mind up years ago [...] This is what the Lord wants me to do,' he said in the meeting. 'We have the right under state law to craft and create ... the team we want to work with for the next four years. I hope as a community, we can move past this. You'll see great things in the next four years. The sky isn't falling.'" 


Carver also said, in reference to Mayor Parker Wiseman's recusal, "'At this time, that's the most cowardly thing I've ever seen somebody do.'" 


If I may... 


1. No, Ben. "cowardly" is refusing to provide any rationale whatsoever (you know, like reasonable adult human beings do) about the firing of a city employee whose performance has been at worst satisfactory and at best exemplary. "cowardly" is hiding behind your supposed "right under state law" instead of applying even a scintilla of common sense about open, honest, ethical communication. "cowardly" is using the facade of "Jesus [or Buddha, or Zoroaster, or Tom Cruise] told me to do this" instead of taking responsibility for your actions as an alleged leader. (Related: if a recusal is the most cowardly thing you've ever seen somebody do, you are nowhere near experienced enough to hold public office.) 


2. "The sky isn't falling" is PRECISELY the kind of statement people use (especially those in office) when they seek to trivialize or otherwise diminish an issue that's important to other people. This is the exact opposite of leadership - it's cynical political hackery. 


3. With due respect to the religious beliefs of others, saying "I've prayed about this" and "This is what the Lord wants me to do" in a public forum about a matter of municipal governance constitutes a frightening intellectual abdication. It's like a civil engineer saying "I feel like this bridge is safe" or "God tells me this bridge is structurally sound," and I suspect I'm not alone in wanting city leaders who act on rational thought, much as I'm probably not alone in wanting bridges that are the product of sound and rational engineering principles. Put another way, you're not in office to pander to the church choir with feel-good testimonials -- you're in office to use your brain and THINK on behalf of your constituents (you know, like reasonable adult human beings do). 


Shame on Ben Carver, David Little, Henry Vaughn, Lisa Wynn, and especially Roy Perkins (alderman for Ward 6, where I live) for their unwillingness to be leaders. Many thanks to Scott Maynard and Jason Walker, who at the very least are trying to proceed the way leaders should. 


John Brocato