I've just survived my first Board of Aldermen meeting and I'm already being fitted for a noose.
The first order of business was to elect a Mayor Pro Tem who takes the mayor's place when he is absent or incapacitated. It is a job with a great deal of responsibility and I took that into consideration with my vote. The Mayor, 2 citizens and County Commissioner Charles Warren put in strong words of support for Nelson Adams. He has been an Alderman for over 30 years, and has been Mayor Pro Tem in the past. The other nominee was Mary Ellen Poole, a newly-elected Alderman who was the Chairman of the Southport Planning Board prior to the recent election. I respect Alderman Adams for his many years of experience and service to our city. However, I voted for Alderman Poole because I feel she was the most qualified candidate. She possesses excellent people skills and her expertise in running meetings are among the many reasons I voted for Alderman Poole.
This angered a large segment of the people in the audience and many departed immediately after that vote.
Shortly thereafter there was a discussion of the proposed international port terminal planned for riverfront property just north of our city. It is a highly contentious issue and I have made my concerns about the port very clear. I am in favor of rescinding a resolution made by the Board of Aldermen in July of 2006 that expressed support for the port project. However, I agreed with Alderman Adams that we should be sure all points of view are expressed before a vote, and that the vote should be postponed until the next meeting (Jan 14) or during our retreat (Jan 16). We would have a chance to solicit and receive public input (something that's never been done regarding this issue) and have the time for each alderman to fully express their position. Unfortunately, a motion was raised to rescind the resolution. Since I wanted to allow the additional input before any vote, I decided to vote against rescinding the resolution. The motion was defeated when the 3 to 3 tie vote was broken by Mayor Howard.
Upon further reflection I realized my strategy was completely misunderstood, and ultimately misguided. Most people who supported me based on my opposition to the port were confused and angry. They felt deceived and betrayed. Despite what I felt were legitimate reasons for delaying the vote (public input and an attempt to achieve some board unity) nobody saw it that way. If I could rewind the tape I'd vote to rescind the resolution. Fortunately I'll have that chance when the issue is revisited after public input and further discussion by board members in January.
I strongly encourage you to attend the January 14 board meeting and give your opinion during the public comments section. I hope the board gets to hear from many citizens--both in favor of rescinding the resolution or against it. Even if you feel the board should put off rescinding the resolution, please show up and be heard. Spread the word as this will be the first time the board will have heard from the public on this issue, and you will be able to make a profound impression. The re-vote will take place later at that meeting or at our retreat (open to the public) 2 days later on Jan 16.
Your comments are welcome, and please remember that I have worked tirelessly for the last 2 years doing research and giving presentations against the port project. I just want to be sure all voices are heard on this issue.