Leadership, where has it gone?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I’m beginning to think that some of the Blytheville City Council members do not understand how governing works. Now don’t misunderstand, I have always known that the council is bad at governing, but I at least thought that they understood it’s key concepts, now I’m not so sure.

At last week’s Parks and Recreation meeting Committee Chairman R.L. Jones stated that he believes that the council should stay out of the business between the Facilities Board/Blytheville Baseball Softball Boosters (BBSB)/Sportsplex. Jones referred to an ordinance that was passed back in 2001 stating that the ordinance said that the council gave power of the ball fields to the Facilities Board, and because of the council doing that, they should stay out of their decision making process and allow the Facilities Board to work it out themselves. Jones said that if you hire someone to do a job then you let that person do their job and unless they are doing something wrong/illegal then you don’t interfere. That is all well and good, but here is the problem, the Facilities Board is doing something wrong, letting the Sportsplex situation fall apart, and they are technically doing something illegal, not properly following the rules of the ordinance that established them.

But this isn’t a rant about the Sportsplex, the BBSB, or the Facilities Board. Opinions about that situation have been expressed all across this town by those far more knowledgeable with the situation than I. I’m not particularly a sports guy nor do I have interest in playing at that facility. While I will mention these groups in this column again it is only because they provide the most recent example of this council’s ineptness.

As I’ve said, during the last Parks and Recreation Committee meeting the Sportsplex issue was heavily discussed, with much repetitive rhetoric, but very little in the way of solutions. The council went back in forth between Jones and Councilwoman Barbara Brothers about the council’s responsibility in this matter. Jones’s job analogy simply doesn’t make any sense and it concerns me that someone who seems to know so little about governing has been on the council for nearly 28 years. The problem with his argument is that no matter what arbitrary power is given out to an appointed group, like the Facilities Board, the council still has final control/responsibility over any facility that is owned by the city. Just because the Facilities Board is acting as middle management doesn’t mean the council has lost their power in this situation.

Another argument made in this turbulent meeting was that the council needed to stay out of the issue because they were elected officials and getting involved shows political influence.

“I think what Councilman Jones also is saying is we are political. We’ve been elected as the elected official. We can not go out there and say what you need to do because it’s almost saying like we’ve got that political influence and I can go out there and tell L.C. you need to be doing this,” Councilman John Musgraves said at the meeting.

“They need to come to the meeting. They need to come and voice their opinion and what they want to use, but we should stay out of that because we are an elected official once again,” Musgraves said.

So let me get this straight, some of the council think that if they try to govern in a situation like this it’s showing political influence? GOVERNING THE CITY OF BLYTHEVILLE IS THE JOB OF THE COUNCIL. How can they think that doing their job is showing political influence? The council has ultimate power in this situation it says in the ordinance that the council has final say on decisions concerning the Sportsplex.

Jones came to the meeting with these two ordinances in tow seemingly under orders to do so. He got to the meeting and simply repeated phrases about wanting to follow the law and letting the Facilities Board handle the situation. Demagoguery and avoiding responsibility is not what leadership is about. The Facilities Board is struggling to handle this situation right now and have even had their board president offer his resignation. Whatever comes out of this decision about the Sportsplex is going to affect those in the city and it is time for the council to play ball.

The Council is the ultimate group of authority within the city and they need to start acting like it. Throwing the blame on a group of volunteers who have only been reestablished for a few months isn’t going to help anyone and screaming about following the law while waiving around a piece of paper from 2001 seems like a poor defense whenever you are trying to pick and choose what parts of an ordinance you want to follow.

The Council isn’t trying to give the Facilities Board an opportunity to handle the situation; they are trying to use the Facilities Board as a scapegoat. If the BBSB does not return and no there is no baseball this year, the Council wants to be able to say, “Well we didn’t have anything to do with it, blame the facilities board.”

They are trying to avoid their responsibility in this situation and they need to start acting like leaders or get ready to let someone else do it.