Respect the charter

Published 8:45 am Friday, April 29, 2011

With the controversy over a proposed Navy partnership surely resolved, the Franklin City Council could use refresher courses in civility and parliamentary procedure.

Your average group of third-graders would have a hard time topping the immaturity on display Monday night at City Hall as council members debated for the umpteenth time whether to invite the Navy’s use of Franklin Municipal Airport for pilot training.

If there is a silver lining to this divisive ordeal, the council’s overwhelming second rejection of the Navy project accomplished what the city election cycles of 2008 and 2010 did not: It restored the position of mayor to the one-vote, gavel-wielding, ribbon-cutting, ambassadorial post that the city’s charter designed it to be.

Mayor Jim Councill’s overreaching style got city government in way deeper with the Navy than it ever should have gotten without broad-based community support. When Navy brass first approached the mayor more than a year ago about the possibility of using the airport, his answer should have been simple: “Thanks so much for thinking of us. It sounds very good to me, but you should know that I am but one vote among seven with no authority to independently pursue such a partnership. I encourage you to call our city manager, June Fleming, who will work it through the proper channels.”

Instead, the mayor set out on a one-man mission that angered many citizens, divided this community at a time when unity is critical to its survival, and alienated council colleagues who have long resented his heavy-handed leadership style.

Councill is an honorable, well-intentioned man with a distinguished record of public service and a heart for the city’s well-being. If he and his supporters want a strong-mayor form of government in Franklin, there is a process for amending the city charter and achieving that goal. Many voters would support it.

Trampling on the charter as currently written, however, does a huge disservice to the community and leads to debacles like the bungled Navy pursuit and the circus atmosphere Monday night at City Hall.