Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cable Imbroglio or Coody Implosion?

There were signs during last week's City Council meeting that something was not quite right. Planning Director Tim Conklin, a very competent and highly regarded city employee, is resigning to take a job in Springfield, Missouri. The City Council passed a Resolution of gratitude for Conklin's 15 years of service, then Mayor Coody announced that Conklin's position would not be filled until next year, dumping his responsibilities on the other employees. Quite a slap at the staff just honored by the Council in a 7-0 vote, then later in the same meeting he berated the Council for not respecting the staff and adding two burdensome weeks to the time it would take to fill a vacant position. Bizarre or Bipolar?

This week it got worse. No one has seen the Mayor at City Hall, and perhaps for good reason. Dr. Susan Thomas, Ph.D., Public Relations and Policy Adviser, has usurped all power granted to the Telecommunications Board by ordinance and declared it merely advisory. She decided to unilaterally draft new regulations. She has also suspended all public affairs forums on the Government Channel and decreed that even previously recorded and shown forums cannot be replayed. All of this comes on the heels of her firing the city's long-time Cable Administrator and having him removed by the police.

Then, yesterday, Dr. Susan Thomas Ph.D., Public Relations, Policy Adviser, and Self-Appointed Cable Czar, fired off a memo to Mayor Coody declaring that "the conflict of opinion between me and certain member of the Telecom Board in this matter has become untenable and has created a negative working environment in which I am no longer willing to participate." Big surprise. She asked the Mayor to relieve her of responsibility for the FUBAR situation.

It gets even more weird. If you have forgotten Dan Coody's bold statement before the Fayetteville City Council on September 19, 2000, that control of the Government Channel should be by the Telecom Board and not the Council and that there should be more citizen debates and not less, Richard Drake has that and more on his Street Jazz blog today. Now in power, Coody wants his office to control everything and squelch all public debate in that forum. City Attorney Kit Williams has also sent Mayor Coody a memo supporting that new position and repudiating as unwise the stance taken by candidate Coody when he ran for office.

It would still be okay under Coody's new scheme for Coody, himself, to use the Government Channel to present one-sided "educational" programs like the campaign to increase the sales tax or his press puffery of whatever he wants to brag on himself about endlessly. It would not be okay for citizens to request and present a balanced discussion of proposed impact fees or even proposed regulations of the Government Channel. The government will tell you anything they want you to know.

Although I had a couple of earlier blog entries about this topic, I haven't followed it closely and really don't know much about all of this stuff, so chime in if you have a better handle on what's going on here. I do think it looks like the end times for this administration. It seems to be so riddled with contradictory positions that the mayor has lost the public trust. Coody should be very glad that Scott McClellan didn't work for him. The rest of us can be glad that there are 217 days left in this year.

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