Interview #94: McDonough, GA Councilwoman Sandra Vincent (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Sandra Vincent has been on the McDonough city council for over a decade and only recently experienced her first meeting about tattoos and piercings. We also covered her frustration over a park and what that meant for a business owner who wanted to comment upon it.

Q: Last year, there was one part of the city employee handbook that bothered you–the council was trying to limit tattoos and piercings. Was this the first time in your more than a decade on the city council that this subject came up?

A: There have been other times we discussed dress code. I don’t recall there being another time when we specifically were creating policy that descriptive around tattoos. Tattoos, even though I don’t have a tattoo and don’t particularly like them, culturally there are more young people who are into tattoo wearing. To say that we’re not going to hire individuals with tattoos above the neck is to limit ourselves.

Q: How surprised were you that the others did not see it your way?

A: I was extremely. I think I had a weeklong debate with my four daughters. What was even more odd is that there were people presenting in the audience that evening who represented the local chamber [of commerce], one of which had tattoos and a mouth piercing!

Q: No way!

A: I was sitting there thinking, this is a professional woman that has just presented this amazing piece to us. She has tattoos and piercings and we’re saying that if you exemplify those characteristics, that’s not considered professional. I almost felt like I had been propelled back about 20 years.

McDonough, GA Councilwoman Sandra Vincent

Q: At the meeting on April 18, 2016, you moved to add a discussion of the Overlook subdivision park to the agenda. But other council members said they had already told people that there would be no discussion and therefore it should stay off the agenda. How sympathetic were you to that reasoning?

A: I wasn’t. Initially, the Overlook discussion was on the agenda. In that chamber were somewhere between 50 and 75 individuals from the Overlook community who had come out. Somebody took it off [the agenda].

Q: After you gave a presentation despite the mayor trying to gavel you down, the audience applauded and you left the chamber. Do you remember where you went?

A: I walked outside of chambers through the back door to try and capture myself. I went out and did have a conversation because those are people that I represent. I think the most heartbreaking thing was an elderly gentlemen–he just kind of looked at me and said, “Ms. Vincent, what do we do now?”

Q: When you came back in the room, you and a public commenter had an exchange in which you wanted her to state that she did not live in the city, despite owning a business there. Did you have a history with that person?

A: The commenter had concerns regarding the park. My response concerning whether or not the individual lived in McDonough was germane to the fact that there were almost 75 individuals who live in the city that were refused an opportunity to speak. We’re talking about specific issues for a particular geographic area and this business is across town. I don’t see how it’s fair to not disclose the fact that the person is not a resident.

Follow Councilwoman Sandra Vincent on Twitter: @sandravincent


#81: Meridian, ID 1/24/17

Inside the vast Meridian council chamber, local holy man Pastor Larry offered an opening prayer that was part weather report–

“Dear Heavenly Father: we thank you for the snow, but for many of us you have given more than we need.”

–part community calendar–

“We look forward to the upcoming State of the City report.”

–and part international travel brochure.

“I asked a young Vietnamese lady why she moved to Meridian. She says, ‘I went online and saw it was one of the safest cities.'”

Someone looked up Meridian, Idaho on the Internet? This sounds like fake news.

One of Meridian’s dedicated employees strode to the podium to brief council members on new fees for tidying up the parks. “Basically, we’re trying to recover the staffing cost to clean up before and after a party,” he explained. “There’s different prices based on the number of people likely to reserve that shelter.”

Council Member Luke Cavener raised an eyebrow in skepticism. “Can you share why it takes less time to clean up Centennial Park compared to Hillsdale Park? There’s a $10 difference.”

“Hillsdale Park, there’s a small splash pad there and a more significant playground,” explained the man. “As far as how much time it takes to clean one versus another, it depends on the party. Did they have a cake fight? It could be some people took advantage and they left a mess.”

A cake fight? Those Idaho Catholics are wilder than I thought!

Maybe don’t do a wide shot of the audience?

But Council Member Cavener angrily shoved aside this sweet talk. “I personally struggle with the city playing favorites as to which shelters WE think are the most valuable.”

He eyeballed his notes. “It takes six staff hours to clean up Kleiner Park shelter A1?!”

Silence. After several uneasy moments, Mayor Tammy de Weerd offered a gentle correction.

“I guess we have to trust that personnel in the field have a grasp of the time commitments,” she said sternly. “I would also say–I’ve seen this personally–our staff is not just cleaning up. They’re running people out of shelters that want to be belligerent even though they didn’t reserve it. Our personnel play interference on a number of different issues.”

Cavener sat quietly. The mayor glanced out at the ghost town of seats.

“This is a public hearing. Is there anyone–gentleman–that would like to provide testimony?”

The one guy sitting with his child in the corner gave a polite smile and a wave, but said nothing. With Council Member Cavener voting “no,” the council passed the cleanup fees.

“Madam Mayor?” Cavener once more loaded up his artillery. “A number of weeks ago, we proposed the idea of a public forum for our citizens. I haven’t heard any progress made on that.”

Her Honor was startled. “I…don’t know. Was I there?” she asked incredulously. “If I don’t remember it, I can guarantee you, there was nothing that has happened.”

Mayor: “Perhaps Mr. Benjamin Franklin would jog my memory….”

“I really like the idea,” Council Member Ty Palmer chimed in. “If nobody shows, so be it. If 25 people show, we’d like to hear ’em.”

“I’m kind of caught unawares,” the mayor murmured reluctantly, before offering her lukewarm endorsement. “We can bring back further information.”

Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to the people who have to clean up after the Meridian cake fights.