How do you solve a problem like Bethea?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Bethea?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!
Quite the session at Trenton City Council last night. Two interesting measures passed last night. The first, without any legal force but still a measure of Council and public dissatisfaction, was a Resolution of No Confidence in the Current Occupant of the Mayor’s office down the hall from Council Chamber. Even though it has no legal standing, it still wasn’t a bad action to take. This space discussed such a measure two years ago, barely one month into the CO’s term. Better late than never, I suppose.
The second measure, with some teeth in it, was the first reading of an Ordinance to reduce the salary of the CO by a little over half. The Resolution was passed 4-3, and the Ordinance by 5-2.
The difference in vote count was due to the switch in vote by East Ward Member Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, who said she backed the measure but disagreed with the wording. A word of advice to the Honorable Member: if you support the aims of a measure but don’t like the wording, why don’t you propose amended language? Repeat after me: “Madame President, I move that the Resolution be amended as follows:” and make your suggestion. If your proposed amendment makes the resolution stronger, your colleagues will agree and vote in favor. If not, then they will oppose it, and then you can feel free to vote against it. If you just say you don’t like the text, and make no effort to improve it, that is a pretty meaningless gesture to me.
However, I do appreciate her vote on the salary Ordinance. I opposed this idea in principle when it was first proposed some months ago, but in the context of the continued mendacity of the CO as he continues in office, as well as his continued tenacity in holding on to his paycheck even though he does precious little on the job, I won’t speak against the Ordinance this time. If this may help get the guy to finally leave, then Godspeed!
Council seems to be continuing with some of the tentative progress they have been making lately towards working in functional coalitions to get stuff done. However, a few individuals on that body continue to drag Council down as a whole, sadly. Ms. Reynolds Jackson seems, belatedly, to be starting to break free from the lock-step defense of the Current Occupant her previous voting record would suggest. And, in the face of so much evidence that should have disabused her long ago, Kathy McBride defends the Administration far, far too much. Seems to me that if she has any political instincts for self-preservation, she may want to admit which way the winds are blowing. And they will not be winds favorable to anyone associated too closely with the CO.
But Alex Bethea is a lost cause. In any episode of “Jeopardy” to feature Mr. Bethea and a sack of hair, I’d bet on the sack to win. Mr. Bethea continues to display not only an astonishing ignorance about any basic knowledge about his job, but also an arrogance to match his ignorance. He is belligerent about his stupidity, a bad attitude for any person let alone an elected official.
For instance, last night Mr. Bethea took exception to the placement of the No Confidence Resolution and the salary Ordinance on the agenda, and accused Council President Phyllis Holly-Ward of running “a little dictatorship here.” He may disagree on the content of these measures, and has every right to vote against them, but if they are duly sponsored and comply with the law, Council can certainly consider them. This behavior does not a “dictatorship” make. Far from it.
Mr. Bethea no doubt considers Ms. Holly-Ward a dictator for swatting down his motion last night to elect a Council Vice President to serve in the absence of the council’s President. He was indignant at this rejection, and apparently loudly complained about it.
He made this motion despite the fact that the position of Vice President DOES NOT EXIST under our city Ordinances. This is a position and practice that this Council, and its predecessor, elected despite zero authority to do so. Council can certainly revise the city’s ordinances to do so, as the Council President noted last night, even though I see no reason to do so. The current prescribed mechanism of electing a pro tem person to chair a meeting in the absence of the president seems to work OK to me. But to continue to push for electing someone to this position, and the internal politicking to get the position, is just foolish.
Even if all it had on its plate for the next coming months was consideration of the budget and financial affairs for this City, Council would have a heavy agenda, needing the full attention of its members. It would also need to see their members running on all cylinders. Sadly, with a member such as Mr. Bethea dragging his colleagues down, Council is even less effective in these hard and crucial times that they could be.