May 16, 2013, is a date Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover should mark in his Life Legacy Calendar. This date marks when the persistence of a citizen and a citizen’s group and the wisdom of the judiciary checked the executive’s mantra of lack of reasoning and obstinance.
While the path to this date is lined with the city charter, master planning sessions and financing decisions made by this and previous administrations, it was the office of this Mayor that mounted the final barricade – the office of this mayor self-annointed Cedric B. Glover himself as THE “decider” of our town and nothing, no one, could ever leash this executive.
The arguments (read Court decision here) made to the court on behalf of the “decider” were
but traffic trash thrown on the highway to delay the court’s determination that the mayor must respect the will of a unanimous city council and a determined group of citizens. The mayor saw the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus filed against him and his office as a power play designed to usurp his self-perceived autocratic authority over the city. The judiciary simply explained to the mayor that our system of governance is one of checks and balances.
What the office of the mayor should have learned from the court’s resolution, which articulately and in plain English spelled out how our system of governing works, is that it was he and his office that usurped power. The court explained that in our system, there are three branches of government, to-wit, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches. The court explained that the city council, as the legislative branch, makes decisions via resolution or ordinance. The office of the mayor is imbued with the power to veto, which the “decider” exercised. The city council has the power to override the veto, which it did. Yet, the “decider”, rather than believing in our system of governance instead hired legal counsel and untenably claimed usurpation. Given the “decider’s” arguments against the city council, it is not an illogical leap to conclude he views the judiciary in the same light . . . beneath him.
The court ruled and it ruled against Glover, rejecting his legal arguments. The court directed dates certain for Glover to comply or face contempt of court charges. The “decider” persists, however, in acting above the law, claiming, through his legal counsel, unavailability due to previously scheduled matters. All the “decider” has been ordered to do is pick up a pen and sign his name on a resolution duly passed by the legislative branch, the city council. Precisely, how long can that take? Is the “decider’s” pen of extraordinary weight? Is it housed in an undisclosed location and available only on waning quarter moons? The “decider” seems to be bent on testing the utmost patience displayed by Judge Emanuel. Apropos the amount of time necessary to find a pen and to use it, rather than pushing the schedule back further, a wiser solution would be to set an earlier, even immediate, date for compliance.
Despite a clearly worded directive set forth in the duly passed City Council resolution, the office of the mayor, instead of following the law and carrying out the plan, chose a different course of action. The “decider” chose arrogant obstructionism and funded the arrogance with public monies (See most current Press Release HERE). Our system works as follows: public debate about the merits of any publicly-funded project is had BEFORE decisions are made and legislation is enacted. Whether you support renovating a fire station and a downtown area for millions of public dollars or enhancing an existing city park, you follow the same protocol. You air ideas, you have public debate, you make inquiry, and you have discussions. The City Council considers all of this and issues ordinances or, as in this case, a resolution. The resolution is then presented to the executive, who has the power of veto, which was exercised here. The City Council in turn has the power to override the veto, which it did. You then carry out the plan.
It was only upon the threat of the lawsuit, which threat was not a threat, but in fact the course of action forced by the Mayor’s obstreperousness, that the “decider” decided to engage in public debate. Perhaps a better term would be “spinning.” Some of the citizen response reveals that the Decider was somewhat effective with his spinning. While the court stopped the tail chasing, it seems appropriate now to clear, once and for all, the smokescreen sprayed by the office of the Mayor.
As made pellucid by the court’s opinion, when the city council overrides the mayor’s veto, that’s the end of it. The Mayor and his office do not get another shot at obstructing the law, whether by action or, as here, the inaction of refusing to pick up a pen and sign his name. Simply put, the mayor doesn’t always get to pick which laws he supports and ignore the ones he doesn’t. Many other city issues have not received the same public scrutiny as this one. Sometimes an example must be made, and you have to have the conviction to follow up words with actions. Here, a citizen and a citizen group had enough gumption to assail the arrogance of the executive and took it to task. It is the mayor and his office that expended (or have attempted to expend because, to date, no city council resolution authorized the hiring of private counsel to represent the mayor and his office) public funds to argue that the office of the mayor of this town isn’t subject to checks and balances.
This particular case reveals tyranny or at best, some form of malfeasance. When an elected official actively misleads the voters with untruths, half-truths and downright lies, that isn’t leadership. That’s contempt for the voters and our system of government by, of and for the people.
Sadly, the story of the dog park resolution is not the first instance to reveal the “decider’s” misconception of basic Civics. Glover long has proven that he manages many functions of his office with a defiant fist, even to the extent of shirking public records requests. The parallel to this has been seen in other executives, but documents have been produced that prove that mischief may be a factor, Glover continues to make truth a difficult fact to publish. No matter what your personal views are regarding dog parks, whether you think they’re silly or not, personal views, including those of the Mayor’s are not the issue. No matter your personal views, a debt of gratitude is owed the gumption showed by the filing of the Petition for Mandamus; someone finally had the temerity to task the arrogance of the notion that the office of the mayor sits autocratically above all else. No. No. No. Not in this town said the court!
We can dance about in court until the mayor leaves office, and I’m sure the attorneys would love that, but the people deserve relief. So here is a Cliff’s Notes version of the real set of facts at hand. The “Real Issue” to the citizens isn’t about dog parks. cat parks. Aquariums, street repair, or parks at all. The Petition for Mandamus was and is about all that and far more importantly, our basic democratic process. Take notes:
- The City Council passes a resolution.
- The office of the Mayor vetoes the resolution.
- The City Council overrides the veto (unanimously!)
- The Office of the Mayor ignores the resolution resoundingly now passed and the law of the City.
- The matter goes to court, brought by a private group.
- The judge rules the legislative override requires the mayor to act by signing for the dog park funds.
Remember that civics class all freshmen in high school are required to take? The fundamental of our system of governance is the balance of power across three distinct branches of government. Executive, legislative, and judicial. The district court ruling upholds this basic precept. Now, whatever it is you think the city needs or should be doing, for example, street repair, aquarium, cat park, lighting at a city parking lot, etc. into the resolution. What would your position be had the foregoing scenario happened with that resolution? (MOST RECENT PRESS RELEASE BY MAYOR FOLLOWING COURT OPINION)
We believe the process should be recognized for what it is. We followed the rules, now the mayor must be held accountable and follow the rules, like the rest of us citizens. Sign, or go to jail! Be the “decider!”