The City Of Semmes Mayor/Council Is Totally Dysfunctional
The city council of Semmes and the mayor of Semmes, your elected officials, can determine to some degree whether the City Of Semmes grows, provides jobs, remains safe and so many other things. Your elected officials even have the opportunity to impose their own beliefs into our city government when they make decisions for us. Make no mistake about it, your mayor and city council will be making decisions that will effect your way of living and probably your pocketbook. It’s time to focus on city politics.
There is a lot of hullabaloo this year over the presidential election and the citizens of Semmes have been giving voice to their opinions and reposting every imaginable type of national political propaganda available on Facebook. It’s sad the same is not true for the local election process. True, there is more talk about the municipal election this year than in years past and this may be because the 2016 election is the first election in which Semmes voters really have a choice. Prior to this election, the mayor’s seat and all city council candidates were unchallenged. They went into office without any opposition at all.
City council and mayor positions are more important than ever for the City Of Semmes. In order for our city to succeed in a big way we must have representatives that can deal with the frustration of public office and willing to accept one’s own weaknesses and build on the strength of working as a team. Good choices made by individuals of high moral character is an absolute necessity. A team approach is mandatory.
As I interview people in Semmes, research state statutes and generally try not to make a fool of myself, I keep looking back at information supplied by the Alabama League Of Municipalities, www.alalm.org. I find that many voters, myself included, do not fully understand how city governments, specifically a mayor/council form of government, are supposed to work. Of particular interest to me is the proper interaction between council members and the mayor. For the purpose of comment, I proclaim fair use of the following Alabama League Of Municipalities copyrighted material:
The Division of Duties Between Elected Officials
One of the most misunderstood aspects of municipal government is the separation of powers between the mayor and the council. Like government on the state and federal levels, municipal government is divided into three separate but equal branches: executive, legislative and judicial. Each of these branches has distinct duties, powers and restrictions on how far it can intrude into the affairs of the other branches.
At the municipal level, the mayor serves as the head of the executive branch. Section 11-43-81, Code of Alabama 1975. As such, the mayor is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the municipality. He or she oversees municipal employees, makes sure that bills are paid on time, executes municipal contracts and, in general, performs many of the same functions as a C.E.O. of a private corporation.
In municipalities of less than 12,000 inhabitants, the mayor also presides over council meetings and serves as a member of the council. Section 11-43-40, Code of Alabama 1975. In these cities and towns, the mayor may vote on any issue before the council, introduce measures and participate in debates to the same extent as members of the council.
In cities with populations of more than 12,000, the mayor is not a member of the council. However, he or she has a veto over any permanent action taken by the council. The council can override the veto by a two-thirds votes. Section 11-43-40, Code of Alabama 1975.
The council is the legislative branch. Candidates must understand that individual councilmembers, acting alone, have no greater power or authority than any other citizen of the municipality. The council can only act as a body at a legally convened meeting.
The council has authority over the finances and property of the municipality. The council establishes policies, passes ordinances, sets tax levels, determines what sorts of services the municipality will offer and has authority over all other legislative aspects of municipal government.
I will admit that I may not fully understand the foregoing but on the surface it looks pretty straightforward – the mayor is the head of the executive branch and the city council is the legislative branch. Each has specific duties and they are required by law to not step on each other or mix and match on a whim.
David Baker, city council member place #1 stated that on or about February 1st of this year, he was told by the city clerk, Brandi Michelsen, that the mayor had established a new policy that denied city council members access to city hall. When I talked with Mr. Lawrence Webb, he stated he could not confirm that because he has purposely avoided the city hall building because of the actions of Mayor Hale. He did say:
“I was told by the mayor that I could not go to Heritage Park to place a plaque which had not been installed. In addition to that, it was later insinuated that I may have been on the property for other reasons. All I did was retrieve the plaque and post to install it at the park.”
In order to verify Mr. Webb’s statement, I contacted Mr. Howard Smith, city council place #2 to see what he could say about the incident. He stated:
“Mayor Hale openly announced that she was restricting access to city hall to all city council members and I, and possibly other city council members, shy away from city properties unless accompanied by a witness or two because the mayor has a way of intimidating city employees and can often get a personalized version of any story.”
I would like the citizens of Semmes to recognize that getting any incumbent city council member to go on record has been like pulling hen’s teeth. I recognize and appreciate their concern. The incumbents I have talked with have stated they do not want a negative mudslinging campaign. Additionally, they are concerned that the city may get a black eye from any negative publicity. These are honorable concerns but the public deserves to know how things are at city hall and from all appearances they are bad – really bad – we have four city council members that are saying they are unable to represent the citizens of Semmes due to the environment created and promoted by the mayor. They are unable to fulfill their statutory duties of overseeing city funds and city properties.
Additional interviews are scheduled for this week with Lawrence Webb, Howard Smith, David Baker, Jerry Shirey and Charles David Watts.
Others have effectively delayed an interview for a variety of reasons:
- Mayor Judy Hale steadfastly holds on to her policy of no communications with the outside world. I have left five requests for a return call.
- Chase Farley has cancelled two appointments due to other business concerns.
- Tony Ebright consistently says his calendar is full.
- Mark Davis has agreed to an interview and will schedule as soon as possible.
I have not yet approached Renee Fransen or Tina Gaston Davis for interviews.
Continue to send your story leads and questions. We have twenty more days before the election. Let’s get to the bottom of all these allegations, accusations and rumors and have real old fashioned American political campaign right here in Semmes Alabama.
Editor, Talk Of Semmes
Candidate, Semmes City Council Place #4