All eyes on the mayor

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 9, 2008

One month ago, Franklin voters sent a message clear as crystal that city government needs a new direction.

Rather than heed that message and change course, the ship’s captain, Mayor Jim Councill, apparently has decided to let the wayward drift continue until a new City Council is seated July 1.

What a waste.

Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson, at a May 12 council meeting, wisely suggested that councilmen-elect Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess be invited to participate in a June 9 work session on the city’s fiscal 2009 budget. Three weeks later, with the work session just days away, they’ve received no invitation.

A golden opportunity to embrace the voters’ demand for change and usher in a new era of city government well in advance of July 1 is about to be lost.

Despite some legal red herrings that distracted from Johnson’s intent, make no mistake that the ball is squarely in the mayor’s court: As the presiding officer at Monday’s meeting, he alone determines whether the councilmen-elect participate. And the political consequences of that decision will be his alone to bear.

In case Councill has forgotten the numbers from May 6, here’s a refresher course:

– Burgess, running primarily on a platform of fiscal reform, got 75 percent of the vote against an experienced, respected incumbent in Ward 2.

– Cheatham, like Burgess a CPA, ran on a nearly identical platform and received two-thirds of the votes in Ward 1.

– A solid majority — 57 percent — of voters cast ballots against the sitting mayor, who won re-election because the opposition vote was split among two candidates.

His political fortunes badly wounded by those numbers, the mayor could have helped himself — and our city — by accepting the obvious, reaching out to the councilmen-elect and demonstrating, at least symbolically, that City Hall has gotten the message.

Instead, the wait continues.