What a colossal mess.
For over a month the city council has been struggling to come up with a policy on how to grant honorary street signs.
There are many issues wrapped up in this, but there is one common thread to all of them: Failure.
Failure to work together, failure to be honest about motives, failure to function and above all a huge failure of leadership.
What’s worse, there is now an ever-widening division on council that could threaten to undo the progress made in the last two years toward straightening out city finances and getting elected officials on a path toward functioning in unity.
And on top of all this, the council’s many failures are happening just as the emergency manager is leaving and a newly-appointed city manager takes over.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting everything fell apart. Councilmembers Andrea Karpinski and Robert Zwolak walked out of the meeting to prevent a vote on the proposed policy because Councilmember Titus Walters was once again absent.
Walters’ absence would have allowed the policy to be ram-rodded through by the three Bengali-American councilmembers. And also because of Walters’ absence, those same councilmembers, Anam Miah, Mohammed Hassan and Abu Musa, previously ram-rodded through language that makes it easier to nominate someone to honor and took the mayor out of the voting process.
Stranger yet, the original language for the policy was submitted by City Clerk August Gitschlag. Why in the world would the city clerk’s office get involved in shaping this policy?
It would make more sense if it came from the Community & Economic Development Office, or the emergency manager.
We were told that it was the emergency manager who came up with the policy and handed it off to the city clerk.
It would have been more proper for Emergency Manager Cathy Square to submit this policy and it would have carried far more clout.
It would have likely eliminated the chance of the council tinkering with the policy as well.
This is where leadership failed to materialize.
No wonder this issue spiraled out of control and led to Karpinski and Zwolak walking out of a meeting to create a lack of a quorum so there could not be a vote.
The city went down this rabbit hole in the 1990s when warring factions on city council regularly walked out of meetings to prevent votes. That ongoing stalemate eventually led to city officials failing to vote on a balanced budget.
The state soon after stepped in and appointed an emergency financial manager.
So now what’s going to happen? Will the Bengali councilmembers walk out at the next meeting when Walters is in attendance?
What in the world will Lansing officials think of this just as Gov. Snyder is poised to announce Hamtramck is out of its financial emergency? Is Hamtramck heading straight back to dysfunction?
One more thing. As a general rule, when a policy has so deeply divided city officials, it’s best to withdraw it and start over again. There is no reason for what should be an ordinary policy to be so divisive.
If you have to rely on the mayor to break a 3-3 tie vote to settle a policy matter, it’s probably a really bad policy that ought to be withdrawn.
What didn’t show up on Tuesday night in this farce was any sign of leadership, and that is the biggest tragedy.