Bad decision by City Council

Published 1:53 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Franklin City Council’s decision to cancel scheduled televised replays of Monday night’s council meeting because of alleged “verbal abuse” by a councilman is censorship by any definition.

What’s more, it’s a poor use of time and energy by a council that has more important things on its plate.

City Council meetings have been aired on the city’s PEG channel on Charter Communications cable since last fall. The meetings are shown live and re-aired several times in the days that follow.

Two days after Monday’s meeting, the City Council called a special meeting to discuss taking Monday’s meeting off the air. Council members voted 5-2 to do so, citing what was characterized as verbal abuse of city staff by new Ward 3 Councilman Greg McLemore.

Mayor Jim Councill and other council members said several citizens had suggested that the meeting not be re-aired. They were concerned about McLemore’s behavior.

During Monday’s meeting, McLemore had a disagreement with City Manager June Fleming about a tour the two took with the Public Works Department to examine problems with sidewalks, ditches and streets in McLemore’s ward.

McLemore, who insisted he wasn’t out of line, joined with Councilman Don Blythe to oppose the decision to cancel the television broadcasts.

They are right.

Picking and choosing which council meetings are to be broadcast based on what is said during a meeting is a silly exercise — and a standard that is impossible to administer fairly. Either televise all meetings or quit televising them. If over-the-top comments by McLemore are to be the test of whether a meeting is televised, the council should just go ahead and turn off the cameras.

The man says what’s on his mind, regardless of logic and tact. His Ward 3 constituents knew that about him and still elected him by a 2-to-1 margin over the incumbent who preceded him. The council — and the citizenry — will have to get used to his loose-lipped ways.

Council colleagues who are offended by McLemore’s behavior should ignore him and keep their eye on the ball in a time when our city, more than ever before, needs focused leadership. If this City Council is itching to hold special meetings, we can think of several topics more important than McLemore — like creating jobs and improving our public schools.