There’s one big thing that the Wilmington City Council has failed to do since its January swearing in and that is to make much progress in coming together as a team to address the work they are supposed to do on behalf of the citizens of the City of Wilmington. Starting with the crazy focus on a prayer before Council meetings and ending with the censuring of Councilman Sam Guy this past Thursday night, this body has had a difficult time finding its way to the real work.
To be sure, there’s multiple problems — first this is a very new City Council. 7 members are new (or recently new) to the Council. Second, we have a new and relatively inexperienced to leadership City Council President. Third, we have a three or four male Council Members who clearly have issues with female leadership. And last, we have Sam Guy.
This past Thursday, the Council attempted to send a message to Sam Guy by voting to censure him. You can see the documents here. (Google docs) Scroll to the back to see some of the samples of the dialog from the floor and some of the emails sent to his colleagues. Keep in mind that this is just a sample and not even a sample of the worst. What is also true is that Council Members (and Council staff) get a steady stream of this commentary via email and FB — and some of this commentary likely rises to the level of harassment, at least for staff. It is a testament to the Council staff, really, that they haven’t reported this to HR or even lawyered up.
Recently, Guy took to FB to accuse Councilwoman Rysheema Dixon of theft and accusing a staff member of being an accomplice. Cited the code and everything. This was over the scholarship funds allotted to Councilmembers to award to students. The spreadsheet circulated by staff seemed to show that Dixon got $6.5K, while Ciro Adams got $250 and Guy got $0. Guy immediately went off on his colleagues — in emails copied to the Mayor, his staff and the media. What he didn’t do was pick up the phone and ask either Shabazz or the staffer what was going on. Because what was going on was that these new Councilmembers were assigned the scholarships accounts of a predecessor — since we are midway into a budget year. Guy never picked up the phone to ask Council President Shabazz why these accounts were assigned this way OR to ask if the remaining funds could be split evenly between all three of the at-Large positions. He just lashed out on FB and ranted on the Council floor — as if the theater of injustice was more important than a fixing what looks to me like a bit of an arbitrary administrative action. One that has an easy fix if he would talk about it to the people who could fix it.
But of everything that he has issues with the Council over, he won’t meet with the Council President. Which tells me that he isn’t interested in fixing anything and that he expects to get his way by just bullying the Council. Not exactly professional behavior — I don’t care who you work for. But it has the effect of signaling to his followers that he is “being oppressed by the Man” without ever having to do any work to help fix those issues. It’s a performance and that performance is not about helping to get the Council’s work done.
The permanent disruption over not getting his way needs to end. And those who keep cheerleading him on in Council need to rethink their approach here. This City is facing a number of very serious problems and it needs its City Council to be working and vigilant. At this point, this body can’t quite get past the disruptions of Sam Guy and his cheering section. Which means that this Council is not getting the work done that this city’s taxpayers pay for. This is also budget season — meaning that all hands need to be on deck for the one thing that Council has any real authority over.
What’s needed is for everyone who is elected to this Council to remember who they work for and to remember that they are not going to get anything done alone. No team works when one or two insist that they are the only players that matter. They also need to know that they will be judged on how well they helped address the real issues, which means that they’ll need to find some cohesiveness and get to work. That means talking to one another like profressional adults and doing the behind the scenes work to get the right foundations in place. Good on Council President Hanifa Shabazz and Council Members Walsh, Adams, Chukwuocha, Dixon, Freel, Oliver and McCoy for standing up for getting to work and getting the business of Wilmington done. We need the rest of Council to get on board with being part of the solution.