Former councilman questions ordinances

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By Zach Johnson

Former Liberty City Councilman Doug Johnson responded to second readings of two ordinances that were on the agenda for June 20 special called Liberty City Council meeting.

To begin, Liberty Mayor Steven Brown asked members for a motion to pass the second reading of an ordinance approving a mayor pro tem. The ordinance allows that in the case that Brown is unable to attend, members would still be able to conduct their monthly meeting, as long as there’s a quorum.

In discussion, Johnson asked to be heard, and said he disagreed with the mayor pro tem ordinance, suggesting the mayor pro tem should be chosen by who received the popular vote among councilmembers.

“I believe this would be a mistake on a few different points. One, by not using the most votes requirement, it would lead to a power struggle or at least hard feelings on the council for having to pick someone other than the popular vote recipient. Second, by not using voter preference you make the same voters that elected you, do not have knowledge to choose, and only the council should select the mayor Pro Tem. Third, each voter and council knowing that voters will elect mayor, council, and pro tem in one vote will empower the council to represent in a better manner. Candidates will have to interact more with the public and make decisions that keep them in good standings, leading to a more improved city,” he said.

Councilman Andy Lawhorn disagreed with Johnson’s position on the issue and said he felt councilmembers are elected as councilmembers and not as pro tem mayor but as a councilmembers working together.

Lawhorn said he didn’t feel it was fair for the possibility of a first-time councilmember to have to run a meeting in his or her first meeting and that it would be more appropriate for the council to decide who the pro tem mayor would be for the session for each council.

Johnson disagreed with Lawhorn’s position and called his argument invalid.

Brown added to the discussion saying every person on the council was elected to be the voice of the people and, as the voice of the people, they get to elect a mayor pro tem by a vote from the council.

Brown and Lawhorn agreed that not making it as an ordinance to have the highest vote getter of councilmembers to be the mayor pro tem gives council members the flexibility on who is chosen as Mayor pro tem.

Council member Richard Montgomery added that giving the council the choice made it simpler.

After discussion, Councilman Micah Meece was elected as the pro tem mayor for the rest of the council’s session. The motion was made by Lawhorn and seconded by Montgomery and passed unanimously.

Johnson also disagreed with the council’s second ordnance on the agenda for the special called meeting concerning the second reading of a franchise agreement with Charter Communications.

In the meeting, Johnson said he had done research on the issue. With numbers he had from the previous meeting, he questioned whether the franchise agreement the council was considering was a good move or not, and urged members to table the decision and calling the state or league of cities to ask if the deal was good or not for the city.

After much discussion about the issue from multiple councilmembers regarding the agreement and whether to approve it or not, Montgomery moved to table the issue until the council’s next meeting and it was passed.

However, the next day Johnson admitted after speaking to Montgomery he had found he had been working off incorrect numbers and that once they discussed further details of the agreement he agreed it would be a good deal for the city.

The issue will be addressed at the council’s next meeting where the council will decide whether to approve the second reading of the franchise agreement.

The next Liberty City Council meeting will take place at 5 p.m. on July 8 at Liberty City Hall.