Letter to the Editor

Is Sanders trying to silence opposition?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

EDITOR'S NOTE: This letter was written prior to Tuesday's meeting, in which proposed changes to Council rules of order were modified. For details, click here.

To the editor:

On Jan. 17, 2012, two days after the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., I saw our mayor defy all that Martin Luther King Jr. fought and died for.

Mayor Sanders submitted an amended ordinance for 1714 establishing rules of order and procedure. His new ordinance gives him sole power to let citizens address the Council. What was interesting was that even the Council was not aware of the changes the day before the meeting; however, the Courier News published it the day of the Council meeting. There were no copies available at the meeting so people in the audience could read along with the city clerk who read the entire document.

I have attended Council meetings for 11 months, and after six months, I followed the procedure by their own rules and was denied the opportunity to speak. When I tried to speak, the mayor asked the police to remove me from the meetings. One of those times, the meeting had adjourned. It is my belief that people are scared to sign up to speak because of what has happened to others who spoke by the past Mayor Harrison.

Now the current mayor is making people feel it's not nice to speak against the mayor and Council. We have a mayor and Council who have all the information about the "financial debacle" from the past mayor and Council but refuse to demand a "grand jury," made up of citizens, to study the information and see if indictments are warranted. Why? Is it because the current mayor also sat on the Council when the payroll taxes were not paid? How many other things were not questioned by the Council under Mr. Harrison by those who currently sit on the Council and are not questioning this mayor? When I began attending the council meetings in 2008, I was ridiculed and ignored when I questioned the budget and other decisions made by the mayor and supported by the Council.

The Council never questioned the deficits of the auditor's report from 2001-2007, which clearly placed the mayor, finance director, treasurer and (Police) Chief (Ross) Thompson as those responsible for correcting the problems. Our past mayor continued to tell the citizens "everything was well and that the city was meeting its obligations," but he lied to us. Now we have a mayor who is a "nice man" but gives us no information. He just wants you to trust him to take care of everything and don't question him. Sound familiar? And if he doesn't like you or doesn't want to hear what you have to say, he just won't put your name on the agenda. Are we in America or Iran?

I marched for freedom to have my voice heard when my mother or others could not speak for fear of retaliation or death. Denial of freedom of speech has no color, only the character of a person who sees freedom of speech as a threat. Mayor, what are you afraid of? Your document says citizens must go through their Council person, then to the committee and then write what you want to say and the mayor will be the only one to decide whether you speak to the Council in public meetings. So if you don't vote for him or you don't agree with everything he says or does, you will not get a chance to speak publicly. I'm a living testimony that this will happen. And how can you request to speak on an agenda item 10 days before the meeting when the agenda is not available until two business days before the City Council meeting or when the most important committee, finance, has no set time to meet?

It's time for people to speak up. You have the right to the same information that the mayor and the Council have, and you have the right to question them publicly in Council meetings. (They have not had any ward meetings since 2010, and my Council member said "we are not required to have one.")

And finally, the Courier News has a responsibility to investigate independently and report their findings to the public instead of relying on city officials to give them the information.

Carol White