Unless some of the clowns comprising the circus that never leaves Bossier City, better known as its City Council, finally accept the electorate’s choice of mayor, citizens have a long four years ahead.
This Tuesday’s Council meeting seemed an opportunity to have recede into the background the acrimony evident between three councilors – no party Jeff Darby, Republican David Montgomery, and Democrat Bubba Williams – and Republican Mayor Tommy Chandler. This spring Chandler upset incumbent Lo Walker, the strong ally of Montgomery and Williams often backed by Darby, to win executive control of the city.
Since then, whenever an opportunity has presented itself, those three have taken the lead in obstructing Chandler’s agenda, principally in rejecting his choice of Shane Cheatham as the city’s chief administrative officer, a post that remains unfilled. Joining them has been newcomer and Walker ally Republican Vince Maggio and Republican interim member Scott Irwin, another Walker ally who lost this spring to Cheatham but when Cheatham abjured taking the seat in anticipation of becoming CAO Irwin’s council buddies placed him back in it until mid-October.
Of the continuing councilors, only Republican Jeff Free has shown any openness to working with Chandler, but even he didn’t back Cheatham’s nomination. That leaves until the special election to replace Cheatham only Republican rookie Chris Smith as a solid Chandler ally, who joined this meeting by phone.
Things moved uncontroversially until a Chandler appointment for public works director came up. Montgomery moved that it be delayed until the next meeting. This caught Chandler off guard, who questioned why. Montgomery alleged the nominee presented some charter difficulties, which he later clarified had to do with nominee qualifications that he asserted required legal review.
The incident raises two immediate questions. First, in the several days between agenda revelation and the meeting, why didn’t Montgomery and any other councilor who may have had concerns about the nominee notify Chandler and discuss the matter instead of blindsiding him in public? In the 16 years Montgomery and Walker served in their respective spots, the two acted as if they were joined at the hip on such matters, and any conflicts were ironed out before it came time to act officially. Simply, Montgomery, appearing to be in league with Williams, pulled a cheap political stunt, and amplified it further when he implied Chandler didn’t understand the charter, to which Darby piled on by suggesting Chandler should have a copy of it forwarded to him.
Rich in irony of course is that Montgomery, despite his two decades in office, in his filibustering often displays an astounding ignorance both about municipal government in general (such as recently lauding the city’s privatization of water sewerage as essentially unprecedented in Louisiana when the city of Central near Baton Rouge has privatized all of its operations since its inception) and about the city’s own charter (such as a recent assertion that appointing top city administrators was subject to executive session confidentiality when the charter expressly contradicts that).
And he got his hat handed to him again when Smith, via phone, began comparing this matter of qualifications to the non-consideration of Cheatham – who Williams claimed wasn’t qualified despite the charter’s generous wording on that account for CAO – leading Montgomery to blurt out his favorite words in the English language when flummoxed: “point of order.” But by bringing in the language implying charter ignorance to insult deliberately Chandler, he and Darby had broadened the debate to include Smith’s line of questioning, invalidating his parliamentary procedure argument.
Perhaps more disturbingly, Montgomery in his allegation along with Williams seemed to have gone outside the city for their legal advice, such as it was. The city does have an attorney and assistant at taxpayer expense on call for exactly these matters. Why are Montgomery and Williams deliberately avoiding the city’s legal department on these matters (they did it also earlier involving the nomination of those two very legal officials), who are they relying upon for these services, and how are these providers being paid? Taxpayers need answers to these questions.
All in all, Williams, Montgomery, and Darby appeared petulant and patronizing to Chandler, who himself seemed ruffled as a result, all in public view. Just what the city needs when outsiders contemplate bringing economic development to it or people think of moving to it: another demonstration that a bunch of insider hicks and yokels run the place, fully justifying its status as America’s biggest small town. It’s hard to imagine more compelling advertisement for residents wishing to start a business to avoid such petty incompetence that they should flee to the parish, Haughton, Benton, even Plain Dealing, or, heaven forbid, Shreveport.
These antics won’t stop until Montgomery et. al. accept that Chandler won the mayoral election and their candidate and their agenda that has made the city overtaxed and overleveraged lost, and stop trying to undermine Chandler. They might have a point about the nominee’s qualifications, but they way in which they have handled it, as with other matters over the past month, has been entirely unprofessional in pursuit of their scorched earth campaign against Chandler. It’s time they grew up and started serving the people instead of their own self-interests.