With two new Alexandria City council members taking office on Dec. 1, I was hoping that this “new blood” would be the beginning of a fresh start to a better relationship between the city’s Executive Branch (Mayor) and its Legislative Branch (City Council). However, that hasn’t happened, and I’m totally disappointed.
Instead of trying to work together and move this city forward, Mayor Roy and several of the black council members have been at odds with one another about several issues that have led to some verbal exchanges or battles between them during the last few council meetings. In my opinion, it was not Roy who initiated these verbal exchanges, but rather it was the black council members who incited them. Again, I’m only speaking of several of the black council members, not all of them. And believe me, I’m not the only one who sees it that way.
Many individuals, from what they observed by either attending council meetings or by watching the meetings on the city’s government access Channel 4, have stated to me that these verbal exchanges by the council members gives the public a picture of men who are argumentative, disrespectful, and infuriated when they don’t get answers or explanations that suit their liking. It puts yet another black eye on the city and council.
Don’t get me wrong. If I felt that I was getting the run around from someone, I would be a little upset, but not to the point that I would let my emotions get the best of me that would cause me to talk over someone, interrupt them when they are speaking, talk to them loudly, or demand that they do this or that instead of putting it in a request. All of those things have happened at some of the meetings, and it was not on the administration’s part. I have watched the council meetings, and there have been times when Mayor Roy or City Attorney Chuck Johnson were at the podium to answer a question or give an explanation to something that was asked of them. However, while answering or explaining what they had to say, they were constantly interrupted and bombarded with yet more questions without having the opportunity to answer or explain what was first asked of them. That’s down right rude, and it shouldn’t be happening, especially from professional men.
It is understandable that there have been some difficulties in sorting out the boundaries of powers and responsibilities between the Mayor and some members of the City Council. This has led to many contentious disputes that has hampered Mayor Roy’s ability to deal with the problems that Alexandria is facing. My concern is whether these council members can let go of the animosity, avoid micromanaging, and focus on their jobs, which is providing policy direction for the city. The relationship between Mayor Roy and members of the City Council has gotten so bad that Roy’s administration has resorted to correspondence with the City Council through written correspondence (letters/memos). And it all came about, according to Kay Michiels, Alexandria’s chief operating officer, due to a perceived lack of respect, a lack of basic professional courtesy, and rancor and false accusations towards Roy and his administration by some members of the council.
It’s a shame for the city of Alexandria to be governed this way. In a smoothly functioning city government, the division of powers (Executive Branch/Legislative Branch) provides needed checks and balances that benefits all concerned. There must be communication between the two branches. Parties on both sides have much to gain by working together for the residents of their city and not against each other. Good government does not begin with petty grievances, legal disputes, and uncooperativeness. It begins with lively debate, mutual respect, and a spirit of cooperation.
I believe that it is high time for all of this political grandstanding that has and is occurring at city council meetings to end. The Mayor and his administration and the City Council needs to get their stuff together. Alexandria’s citizens deserve much better behavior from its government.
In closing, I call to mind the words of President Obama that was part of his inauguration speech. “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”
And here in Alexandria, we definitely need to set aside the childish things that are taking place in our City Council meetings.