More reporters than City Council members attended today’s non-meeting of the city’s legislative branch, which again was stymied by the absence of Jon Johnson and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.
Because the seven-member council has one open seat, the lack of two members means the council could not achieve the required five-member quorum.
After the roll call, the council clerk declared that city business could not be conducted. This follows a similar situation at Wednesday’s special meeting.
The council heard some reports today nonetheless, and members took the opportunity to throw more barbs at their missing colleagues.
Initially, reports were that the no-shows were upset about the handling of a proposed change to the election process of the council’s at-large positions. But it has increasingly become clear that the real concern is a perceived imbalance of power with Councilwoman Stacy Head’s appointee Errol George poised to take her seat.
Head moved from the District B seat to an at-large position two weeks ago, creating the vacancy in her former position. Since then, the council hasn’t had enough members to even consider a vote on George’s appointment. Any appointee would be interim, serving the remainder of Head’s term and by law be banned from running for election to a full term.
George and his supporters were in chambers today.
Dana Henry said of his friend: “Errol has more integrity than anyone I have ever met.”
Henry went on to say that he found the behavior of the missing council representatives “embarrassing.”
Councilwoman Kristen Gisleson Palmer alluded to rumors that Mayor Mitch Landrieu was exerting influence on the decision as to who should take Head’s seat.
“If the intent of this is to let the mayor appoint, I ask the mayor to respect our decision.”
If the council doesn’t appoint an interim member within 30 days of the vacancy, the privilege falls to Landrieu. That deadline is June 1. The council has no meetings scheduled before then.
Johnson and Hedge-Morrell left a May 3 meeting before the council could consider George’s appointment. Even though the council couldn’t take any binding action, the remaining four members went on to take a unanimous vote in favor of appointing George to the position.
Those same four members attending today’s meeting – Head, Gisleson Palmer, Susan Guidry and President Jackie Clarkson – were not happy with the continuing stalemate and inability to get work done.
“We are not always going to win, but picking up our toys and walking off is not going to work,” Guidry said pointedly.
Clarkson was equally sharp.
“This should be unacceptable to the people.”
Head pointed out that other interim appointments in the past weren’t universally supported by the council members but that those candidates went forward with the full vote of the council.
“I would have hoped that I would have been shown the same respect,” she said.
And with that the meeting came to a close with a few confused residents wandering the chambers, wondering why their land-use matters had not and would not be heard.
Scuttlebutt in the chambers is that Landrieu is looking to install former state Rep. Diana Bajoie in Head’s former seat.
Bajoie also was a favorite of the mayor to fill the seat that Arnie Fielkow vacated, a position that went to longtime City Council staffer Eric Granderson. Head replaced Granderson May 2.
The next meeting – whenever that might be – ought to be a long one.