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

April 3, 2010 9:55:00 PM



"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.