Tom Lisi, a reporter with the Herald & Review, has had a literal front row seat to some of the more surprising votes in the Decatur city council–including guidelines for trick-or-treating, a second ambulance license, and a late-game switch for a local golf tournament.
Q: Let’s go to May 7, 2018. What was your council’s beef with professional golf–other than, you know, it’s golf?
A: The tournament is in the Hickory Point Golf Course, which is outside the city of Decatur. It’s in the other side of the tracks–the “good” other side of the tracks–in Forsyth. Usually, in years past, [Decatur] paid the tournament the sponsorship earlier in the year. They held off, so out of frustration, the organizers of the tournament pulled the name [Decatur].
Q: The motion to provide the $20,000 tournament funding failed 3-3 in that council meeting. How shocked were you that the council didn’t break par on that one?
A: Honestly, it was surprising. Part of the reason that that motion failed was the mayor was absent this week. I can feel pretty safely in saying that she would’ve voted for that. If she was there, the motion would’ve passed. But that was one of the shockers of the year, that vote.
Q: And you don’t feel that there was any rigging of the calendar to ensure the mayor would be out of town when this came up?
A: [chuckles] I can’t speculate on that. I guess the bloggers and 4chan commenters out there might have a different theory, but as far as I know she was just on vacation or something.
Q: Councilman David Horn, with this issue and others I’ve observed, is not shy about offering amendments or compromises. Is he the one who most often brings suggestions to the council floor?
A: Yeah, and he’s definitely gotten blowback from other council members on that. It’s sort of a tactic he’s used from time to time and it does throw other council members off–“we had a plan and now you’re trying to throw something new in.” It is a little strange to walk through that and people getting twisted up in Robert’s Rules stuff.
Q: So their irritation comes not from the fact that he’s refusing to go along with the program, it’s just a last-minute addition to the deal they already thought they had?
A: You know, the way these city manager-council forms of government work is the city manager discusses the agenda with council members individually. He has to go with, “what does the majority of the council seem to want?” Councilman Horn is often not in that majority, so I guess you could say the amendment tactic is a way to say, “I’m not on board with the decision that was made beforehand. So I’m gonna throw my two cents in right now and see if anybody goes along with it.”
Q: I didn’t see a lot of public commenters show up to that vote about pulling the tournament funding. Was that because everyone thought it was a sure deal? Or do they just not care about it?
A: I think it might’ve been a mixture of both. I think the average Decatur resident probably doesn’t care that much about that tournament. Maybe people from other parts of the world–because the LPGA is big in parts of Asia–it puts this focus on Decatur in a way residents that live there don’t even know about. There’s definitely people that were really frustrated by that vote. It’s possible they didn’t show up because they didn’t think it was that controversial.
Follow Tom Lisi on Twitter: @tommylisi