Smith, Karriem: Give peace a chance

April 7, 2010 11:06:00 AM



Six days after their brawl at City Hall, Mayor Robert Smith and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem shook hands and made up.  


While these two men did the fighting, the entire city got a black eye. That wound couldn''t begin to heal until the two dropped the simple assault charges filed against one another. 


We wish they had come to this decision a lot sooner. The hang-up between the two men centered on particulars of what actually happened. What the argument was about. Who did the cursing. Who pointed fingers. Who hit whom first. 


These matters are important to Smith and Karriem''s pride. Frankly, they aren''t important to us. 


What matters, to the city at large, is that faith is restored in our leaders'' ability to lead. We need their attention focused on city matters, not political gamesmanship or the gathering of evidence against each other for a Justice Court hearing. 


Now that we know the scuffle didn''t do serious physical harm to either party, we''re surprised the two filed charges against one another. And it appears Smith only filed charges after he read Karriem''s account of the incident in Monday''s paper -- the details of which he disagrees with. 


Whether or not Karriem''s recounting of events is factual or not, we still see Smith as the "big kid" in this schoolyard fight. He''s a veteran councilman, and the public face of the city of Columbus. He''s also the city''s first black mayor. He has the opportunity to make history. He should want to get this matter behind him as soon as possible, not prolong it. 


And Karriem, the first--term councilman who supposedly has wider political aspirations, would have scored few political points with a trip to court after filing charges against his own mayor -- especially when the biggest bruise was to his ego. 


Had dropping the charges -- clearly the only sane decision in this case -- not happened, we and the community would have lost faith in their judgment. They would have chosen their own personal interests over the public good, going to the mat over an argument about the Council''s agenda. 


Their only proper decision, at that point, would have been to resign. 


Some have suggested that they also censure, or sanction themselves. For instance, fine themselves a month''s pay -- a punishment they have approved for city workers such as the Columbus Police Department''s Vicksburg Four, who have also embarrassed the city with childish behavior. 


We think that''s a good idea, and would go a long way toward restoring their own moral authority to punish city employees. 


Smith and Karriem need to now act like the leaders we want and need them to be, and return to fighting for their constituents, instead of among themselves. 


If they can''t do that, they need to abandon their offices, and continue their schoolyard brawl out of the public eye.