Council, Forum Show Politics in Action
City Hall is often the center of activity in small towns. Within its walls citizens can pay their bills, report a problem or learn about community events.
As a Living Democracy Fellow, I work closely with City Hall to ensure that my summer projects are city approved. Bruce Ward is my main contact, primarily because one of his many duties is to inform Linden of local events such the upcoming Summer Celebration or the winter Chilly Festival. Ward uses media outlets like the city Facebook page and local TV stations to promote these events.
As Linden’s Second Annual Art Walk comes together, Brenda Tuck, executive director of the Marengo County Economic Development Association, and I decided to attend the most recent City Council meeting to share information about the upcoming art walk.
The Linden City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 4:30 p.m. City attorney Woody Dinning along with members from Districts 2 through 5, Michael Carlisle, William Bryant, Neal Jackson and Jan Cannon, sit around the half-moon shaped table. Mayor Charles Moore sits in the center while Ward, the Utilities Clerk, and City Clerk Staci Jordan sit on the side.
Moore opened up the meeting with a silent prayer and then asked the members if they had anything to report. When they answered with a no, he turned to the audience.
Council meetings can be short and informal. Though we were not on the agenda, both Tuck and I were given an opportunity to speak.
Because Tuck is a familiar face with the city, Moore addressed her by name and asked if she had anything to report. She updated the council on the new Marengo Business Development Center housed in the former National Guard armory. She invited the city officials to come out and “see what we’ve been able to do for the city and the county” at the June 1 opening.
After her quick update, Moore invited me to say a few words. I introduced myself and briefly explained who I was and why I was living democracy in Linden. I expressed my desire to work with City Hall in hosting the Art Walk as a part of the upcoming Summer Celebration.
After I finished, Moore moved on to official city business.
A concern had reached the city about a child who had been hit by a car in a 15 MPH zone. Apparently, the child had ridden his electric scooter into the road where he hit a car that had just come around the curve. Thankfully, the child was not severely hurt.
The parents had taken the issue up with the city, certain that if there had been more speed limit signs their child would not have been hit. Police Chief Scott McClure offered to put up more speed limit signs along the road, considering that was one of the main concerns of the parents. District member Bryant suggested that the large redbud hedges near the road could be to blame.
Moving on from the incident, Moore turned to Ward and asked him if there was anything he needed to discuss.
Ward presented the council with additional plans for the Summer Celebration. Ward informed those present that the carnival and the Art Walk were in the works. After he concluded his comments, the council went into a closed executive session.
The council meeting is not the only venue to observe local politics. This year, City Hall hosted the first ever Political Candidate Forum in preparation for the June 3 election. Held in the Marengo County Courthouse, candidates facing opposition were given an opportunity to present their platform to the community while answering questions submitted by local citizens.
The contested positions were the Board of Education, District 4; County Commission, District 3; Revenue Commissioner; and Sheriff.
At the forum, Laurie Hall, the probate judge, informed the audience of new voting laws, such as the requirement of a photo ID to vote. She also reminded the crowd that they will now vote at the armory instead of the courthouse.
Hall moved on to introduce the candidates and then proceeded to conduct the forum itself.
Each candidate was given three minutes to present his or her platform. Afterward, Hall asked them four questions, which they had a minute to answer.
Hall was an excellent moderator, and the candidates presented themselves well. Each candidate was available for further questions following the forum.
The forum was a great way that city hall could further involve the community in local politics. Though the neighboring town of Demopolis has held several political forums, this was the first of its kind in Linden, and attendance was encouraging to local officials.
The success of the forum is encouraging to me as well as my time in Linden continues. It shows that this town is invested in local politics.