Council member Pat Shey drags out the history references with some regularity. And he did again Tuesday during a conversation about City Hall that turned briefly to Mayor Kay Halloran and her sometime penchant to drift off for few seconds during public meetings.
KGAN-TV Channel 2 has been beating hard on the mayor about nodding off, and Shey reported that he declined Channel 2′s offer to get excited about the mayor on camera.
On Tuesday, Shey called the mayor matter a “non-story.” He also bristled a bit about the news media and why it wasn’t doing a better job of covering the City Council and all it was discussing about sustainable development and the future.
Shey also was chiding his own council colleagues for using council meetings to speechify and blab and for not staying focused on the post-flood tasks at hand.
As for the mayor, Shey noted that the city’s still-new, council/manager government is designed to make the part-time mayor little different than the other eight part-time council mayors.
The setup is referred to as a “weak mayor” form of government. The mayor has one vote like the others. She has no veto power. The “strong mayor” form of government, which the city’s Charter Commission did not choose back in 2005, features a full-time mayor who has veto power.
It is not true now, Shey said, that “the city going to hell because the mayor nods off once in awhile” or “that Nero is fiddling while Rome burns.”
“She puts in a full day,” Shey said of the mayor. “There are eight others of us on the council. She’s said all along, ‘I’m one of nine.’ If she nods off once in awhile, is that really impacting how the body works as a whole? I don’t think it does.”
Shey said the whole matter reminded him of Abe Lincoln, who was called on to get rid of Gen. Ulysses Grant because of an issue particular to Grant. He drank some.
“Maybe I should get my other generals casks of whiskey,” Shey said Lincoln responded.
The conclusion: ”It’s not impacting his performance. He gets the job done.”
The Channel 2 TV news reporting on the mayor began at last week’s council meeting.
At that meeting, Mayor Halloran cast the lone “no” vote against the council’s decision to release the final $2 million of $3 million in city funds to support a local Job & Small Business Recovery Fund.
Gary Ficken, who is president of the new Cedar Rapids Small Business Recovery group, wasn’t pleased with Halloran immediately after the vote. This is the same Ficken, owner of flood-hit Bimm Ridder Sportswear, who helped run Halloran’s mayoral campaign in 2005.
But on Tuesday, Ficken said he now understands the mayor’s vote.
She has called it symbolic. She knew the council majority was going to vote to release city funds for small business, and she wanted to issue a protest vote because the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce did not follow through and raise funds to match city funds, Halloran has said.
Both Ficken and Don Karr, owner of Affordable Plumbing and Remodeling and one of the founders of the Cedar Rapids Small Business Recovery group, both noted Tuesday that Halloran had donated $10,000 of her own money to the small business fund prior to her “no” vote last week.