And so it continues. I’ve tried hard over the years to remain positive and give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Over the past 15 years that I’ve given political comment in one publication or another, I’ve tried to remain neutral…and see the good through the bad. Leroy Brooks has targeted me, as he did Roger Larsen and others in the past, as being one of those ‘Out-To-Get-Leroy’ people that he often talks about. I’d ignore such comments and continue to view his political antics through an open mind scenario.
But with Brooks, it’s impossible to do. During Monday’s Columbus Conventions & Visitors Bureau December board meeting, in which Brooks turned down funding for his Juneteenth festival, Brooks’ was off of his meds yet again. (I didn’t attend the meeting but have read Packet Senior Reporter Brian Jones’ account of the meeting. Jones is always meticulous in his reporting of any meeting. The best I’ve ever witnessed. RW)
Brooks turning down $15,000 in funding from the CCVB (keep in mind that Market Street Festival, the granddaddy of all as far as festivals go around here, only receives $15,000 itself. RW) is not surprising. Brooks is the type of person who likes to go down in flames and he doesn’t care if he takes anyone and everyone with him in doing so. When State Representative Gary Chism called me Tuesday morning to complain about Brooks and other elected officials meddling in taxpayer funded affairs that they should have absolutely no part of, he suggested an end to the 2% restaurant sales tax that the inter-local agreement stipulates as funding revenue for the CCVB. Mainly because Brooks, as a county supervisor, helps nominate and appoint the board members who make the decision. As does Robert Smith, Kabir Karriem and others who help promote or run self-serving, self promoting festivals such as Juneteenth, Brooks’ baby.
Brooks’ main beef is that, as a result of the new CCVB festival funding guidelines, he’d be held accountable for the money that the CCVB funded to the event. In particular…showing receipts, issuing a 1099 to anyone paid over $600, etc…accountability! In the past, Brooks could just take the money funded by the CCVB and pay entertainment artists cash money (as most artist prefer) and not have to account for it. Brooks likes for others to ‘play by the rules’ but he doesn’t like to be held to those same standards.
So when Chism, obviously fed up with the whole mess of elected officials coming before a board they helped appoint and asking for money, suggested killing the goose that lays the golden egg…I got to thinking. Brooks would probably like that. If he can’t have it, nobody can!
But that would deprive those deserving of their fair share. Those who play by the rules. Those who hold accountability as a high standard. It also wouldn’t be fair to the CCVB board, who are slowly but surely becoming a board that is starting to make sense and who are standing up to the self-servers.
Columbus and Lowndes County need a strong tourism presence. They need a CCVB board of citizens making smart, logical and economically sound decisions regarding providing funding for those events that bring in people from out of town who use our convention center, use our abundant natural resources, spend money at our shops, stay in our hotels and frequent our gas stations and restaurants. And all of that free of self-serving political intrusion and influence.
In a related matter, Nadia Dale has been one of the better city appointments to the CCVB as far as having no agenda and voting as a logical-thinking board member. She has recently been criticized for not showing up at some of the board meetings. (A 4 p.m. meeting for those who work for a living can be tough, though. RW). Ironically, some of that criticism seems to be coming from many of those who are disappointed that Ms. Dale is a board member who listens, learns and speaks with intelligence when she opens her mouth. The city should be proud of her appointment to this board!
A few weeks back, I mentioned that Ward 1 City Councilman Gene Taylor could nearly always be counted on to vote with the wishes of Mayor Robert Smith. The next week, during the December 4th City Council meeting, Taylor reportedly angered Smith by voting not to suspend 2 Columbus police officers (Stephen Kemp and Kevin Moore) during a hearing for the two officers.
If it’s true, Taylor deserves the highest praise and utmost respect from this writer! Kudos to him!
Chief Financial Officer Mike Bernsen Resigns
Columbus Chief Financial Officer Mike Bernsen, who had held his position since 2008, announced his resignation from the city position last week to take a job as a comptroller with the Columbus Light & Water Department. During Tuesday night’s council meeting, the council reluctantly accepted his resignation after an attempt to change his mind during an executive session to discuss the matter.
Bernsen has been the rock who has held the fort together. His service to the city of Columbus has been impeccable.
The council moved to have Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell begin the process of finding a replacement at the salary range of $68,000 to $73,000 annually. Bernsen’s last day will be December 31st.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0