Some aldermen owe apology

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

Forget for a moment how childish some city officials look after Tuesday’s ridiculous series of events.

Forget how incredibly bad our city’s reputation is among state, regional and national leaders who read about such juvenile antics.

And let’s forget the utter lack of respect evident from a select number of our public officials and a lack of leadership by the others who stand by and don’t attempt to silence the ignorance emanating the nearby seats.

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No, let’s just think for a minute about what it must be like to be a department head for the City of Natchez.

At least twice a month, you stand before a group of elected citizens — we shudder to refer to them collectively as leaders at the moment — and fear what may occur to both your dignity and to your livelihood.

Your work is regularly questioned by a few elected officials that, well, have pretty questionable motives and tend to be divisive rather than inclusive, not to mention their penchant for publicly raking department heads over the coals.

Working for bosses who don’t respect you isn’t fun or healthy, but that’s where many of the city’s department heads find themselves.

In 2007, for example, Alderman James “Ricky” Gray attempted to fire Building Inspector Paul Dawes unexpectedly and in the middle of a public meeting.

On Tuesday, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis angered City Engineer David Gardner by suggesting he should be replaced and implying that racism was a factor in why the north Natchez drainage project had yet to be completed.

The reality has more to do with gravity than skin color.

Drainage pipes on the downtown end are the collection points for a large portion of the city’s storm water drainage, thus needed to be fixed first. Further, the city has never found complete funding for the project and has thus had to work on the project in small pieces.

Mathis knows all of this and owes Gardner an apology for the public bullying that she did on Tuesday.

To all the city department heads, we appreciate the work you do, even if some of your bosses don’t.