(VIDEO) Last night’s “hmm” moment from the Decatur City Commission meeting

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 22, 2013

I’m still processing the video I shot at last night’s politely contentious Decatur City Commission meeting, but I wanted to share a clip of a moment that got my attention.

It was late. Many people, tired of sitting through the five-hour plus meeting, were trickling out as the City Commission took up the issue of a 90-day moratorium on tear downs. While the tree removal ordinance passed easily, 4-0, it was clear from the beginning of the Commission’s deliberations that the tear-down moratorium wasn’t going to fly with the majority on the commission.

Mayor Jim Baskett and Commissioner Fred Boykin found themselves isolated as other commissioners questioned the intent and purpose of the moratorium.

Mayor Pro Tem Kecia Cunningham was one of the more skeptical commissioners and as she pressed Mayor Baskett for more information, she mentioned that she’d spoken with former city mayor Elizabeth Wilson. She said Wilson told her that tear downs is something City Commissioners should have addressed 15 years ago.

“Now basically the horse is out of the gate, so if we’re really going to make some progress on affordability and maintaining diversity and so forth, it’s not going to come at the end of 90 days,” Cunningham said.

That led to this exchange between Baskett and Cunningham. Watch:


Cunningham asked Baskett to apologize for his comments, but I wasn’t sure why she asked him to do this. Was it because he was dismissive of Wilson’s opinion? Everyone dispersed when the meeting ended so I didn’t get a chance to follow up.

I’m new and haven’t met Mayor Wilson, but she’s a revered figure from what I was told and served as mayor from 1993 to 1998.

The exchange happened shortly before commissioners rejected the tear down moratorium 3-2. The moment caught many of us by surprise because, up until that point, it had been a pretty low-volume deliberation among commissioners.

It made me wonder if there’s any additional back story here that I may be missing. Anyone know what the deal was?

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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  • Interesting, The last time someone quoted Mayor Wilson at length in a Commission meeting on this topic, he was castigated by all and sundry for “putting words in her mouth”. People still talk about that episode. I wonder if the same will happen this time? I doubt it, since this time the words in question seem to support the status quo.

    My interpretation of the exchange is that Cunningham was trying to use Wilson’s perfectly sensible opinion – that this is an issue that should have been dealt with 15 years ago – as an excuse to say that the tear-down moratorium is useless. Mayor Baskett took exception to this, I assume, since it was clear that Cunningham was twisting Wilson’s sentiment to suit her position. Unfortunately, he opened himself up to criticism by suggesting that Mayor Wilson could have done something about this when she was mayor from ’93-’98. Of course she could not, since then, as now, money and property rules Decatur, not democracy.

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