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The season of celebration?

December 16, 2016
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Ah, the holidays.



And Festivus, the apparent choice of some this year, so inappropriately celebrated Monday night at City Council.

Since the memo was missing from the meeting agenda, it wasn't initially clear that the session was intended to be an airing of grievances suffered over the past year, interspersed with the optional, but always popular, posturing known as feats of strength.

But some, and indeed Mayor Marni Sawicki herself, leapt into the spirit of things with enthusiasm, dishing out heaping helpings of holiday snark topped with ladles of greasy innuendo grown cold in the months since the allegations were first brought forward and addressed.

Let us be clear.

We are not talking about those who brought issues to the table. There are some legitimate concerns raised in the audit that was the agenda item ostensibly up for discussion.

We are talking very specifically about the unprofessional back-and-forth exchanges, the personal attacks, and the repeat allegations of ineptitude and misbehavior that were espoused as fact - mostly by the meeting's chair herself.

Among the wrongs pulled from the grievance bag of baddies?

* Serving up the school superintendent as the appetizer

We will not criticize the mayor for her anger at Charter School Superintendent Nelson Stephenson's public airing last week of an exchange that took place months ago that both parties seemingly had resolved.

We do take issue - strong issue - with how that anger was channeled, however.

First, Mayor Sawicki gave as good as she got through a week-long allegations exchange. She then ratcheted things up on Monday with not only a reiteration of various claims of incompetence against Mr. Stephenson, but the inclusion of the entire city-appointed Charter School Authority board, hammering its chair, fellow Council member Jessica Cosden particularly.

Taking issue with Mr. Stephenson's purported nodding as charter school supporters spoke during public input, she called him back to the podium where the two exchanged potshots and talked over each other repeatedly with the mayor both leveling charges and emphatically denying she would threaten or attempt to intimidate.

The exchange was not only embarrassingly unprofessional, it was a violation of the civility rules Mayor Sawicki herself read into the record at the beginning of the meeting.

Which brings us to:

* Serving up her fellow council members as the main course

Although citizens speaking during public input who call out one of their elected officials by name are chastised - and even removed from council chambers - the mayor had no qualms about calling three less-than-supportive council members to task individually and collectively.

Councilmember Rana Erbrick apparently had the audacity to "like" a critical post or two on Facebook.

After accusing Councilmember Cosden of ineptitude in her role as Council liaison to the Charter Authority - reacting to Cosden's comments concerning Authority autonomy with a tart "sweet" - Mayor Sawicki chided her for responding to queries on the controversy made on social media.

It was Councilmember Richard Leon, however, that, to use the mayor's own phrase, "woke the bear."

Mayor Sawicki informed him that if he put "anything else about me on Facebook, you will get a lawsuit of defamation. I'm tired of taking it. Don't do it again. That's just a suggestion."

A suggestion she followed up with the opinion that the city needs a social media policy.

Ahem. We are so glad that the mayor would use neither threats nor intimidation when challenged.

* Serving up the Charter School Authority for dessert

After citing numerous examples of student and staff-related issues she said have gone unaddressed by the Authority - issues apparently not immediately important enough to stick on a Council agenda herself when received - Mayor Sawicki made a motion to have city staff make recommendations for "best practices" to be implemented by the municipal school system. Her motion was seconded by Councilmember Cosden and approved 6-1.

While we firmly believe that the Charter School System and its Authority should be part of any such a process from the beginning, we'll not address that vote now.

Instead we will address the mayor's failure to follow the so-called "chain of command" - the very thing she said was at the heart of her issue with Mr. Stephenson - by not approaching the Authority before airing her grievances publicly.

Ah, yes, Festivus, staged in all its all-about-me glory.

We're sure the mayor and those who agree with her approach enjoyed the show.

But what about the rest of us?

Our guess is we believe that, as a city, we certainly can do better.

- Breeze editorial



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