Tahlequah Daily Press

Editorials

July 11, 2014

City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

TAHLEQUAH — It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

During the City Council meeting this week, Ward 1 Councilor Diane Weston complained that Mayor Jason Nichols wasn’t keeping the council informed about department head meetings, action Nichols has taken, and proposed future plans.

The vigilance of Weston and Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres, who supported her request, is commendable, especially in light of the chamber saga. Had some of the chamber board members been more alert, the misuse of funds might have been noticed earlier. Weston, Spyres, and Councilors Charles Carroll and Maurice Turney not only have a right to this information, they have a duty to collect it.

But the problem is not Nichols’ lack of transparency. If anything, this mayor offers what social media users call “TMI” – too much information. He had been providing councilors with emails about city business, but Spyres had complained they were “too detailed.” Furthermore, when he tried to give printed documents to councilors at previous meetings, he says, Spyres asked him to stop passing out so many papers. Nichols also tried scheduling meetings with individual councilors, but they rarely showed, and Weston herself declined the invitation.

The mayor was visibly annoyed by the request for more “simple” explanations of city business, and anyone keeping up with current events would understand why. It seems that no matter what he does, he can’t make certain people happy.

The mayor is a self-described “geek,” and others dub him an intellectual. But he’s also blunt, and sometimes abrasive, and sensitive folks might get their feelings hurt by his approach. At the risk of offending those same people, let us also be blunt: People with thin skins, and those who hold grudges and take offense at every perceived slight, have no business in politics, even at the local level.

From the TDP perspective, Nichols has been the most forthcoming of any mayor since at least the ‘80s, so implications that he’s withholding information from the council are puzzling. We also wonder why Spyres and Weston would want “simpler” reports, especially since Turney said he didn’t need the additional bulletins the pair wanted.

Spyres and Weston both have records of community service, and both have been in the public eye for years. Spyres has served on the chamber board and tourism council, so she should know more than anyone else currently in city government how things should work. Weston is a well-respected advocate for children and has long been a source of information for the Press when it comes to their issues and needs. These are intelligent, well-respected women for whom TDP and many others shared high hopes in terms of city governance. And while we sympathize with their disdain for lengthy meetings and wordy emails, we know they’re capable of doing their own research, rather than leaning on Nichols to spoon-feed it to them.

The problem is, they don’t like Nichols’ style. And there’s always a chance at least one of them has ambition for higher office.  We’d hate to think their attitudes are being affected by others in city government who have correctly been called out by Nichols for poor performance, but who are part of the “good ol’ boy” network and thus consider themselves entitled to ineptitude or aversion to progress.

TDP staffers and others have known all three of these people for a long time, and when it comes down to brass tacks, they share many of the same views on a wide range of issues. They need to work past their personal problems, and get on with the job they’re capable of doing: Moving Tahlequah forward, despite attempts of the “old guard” to hold it back.

And if Spyres, Weston or anyone else on the council has a more serious problem with Nichols than verbose emails, they should let us know. The mayor knows he’s open to fair comment and criticism, and if he deserves it, he’ll get it.

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  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

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    July 11, 2014

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