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Common Council Report
by Geoff Kelly
Mickey Kearns is shushed by Demone Smith and Joe Golombek
I couldn’t see his face, but Demone Smith must have been smiling.
The Masten District councilmember frequently complains that the five-member majority on the Council—of which he is not a part—too tightly controls the body’s agenda, stifling debate. But on Tuesday afternoon, it was Mickey Kearns who was silenced on the Council floor, first by Smith and then by the Council’s parliamentary rules.
Following up on a press conference he held on Monday on the steps of City Hall, the South District councilmember and mayoral candidate sought to start a discussion about Buffalo News reporter Jim Heaney’s July 6 story about Community Services Commissioner Tanya Perrin-Johnson’s “expectation,” expressed via email, that her employees would volunteer to work on Mayor Byron Brown’s re-election campaign. At his press conference (which you can watch on Artvoice TV at Artvoice.com), Kearns denounced the coercion evident in Perrin-Johnson’s emails as corrupt, and vowed to abolish the practice of using City Hall employees to staff campaigns, if elected. At Tuesday’s Council session, Kearns wanted to talk to the cameras again about the matter, so he submitted as a late-filed item a letter to Board of Ethics Chairman Douglas S. Coppola, asking the board to investigate.
The trick is that any councilmember can object to the submission of a late-filed item, which postpones its consideration until the next Council meeting, two weeks away. When Council President Dave Franczyk asked if anyone objected to the late file, Smith objected. And so Kearns was quieted.
Later Kearns tried again, quickly drafting a late-file asking that a resolution asking for a local version of the federal Hatch Act, restricting the political activities of city employees, be discharged from committee. The City of Buffalo Employee Protection Act was written by Kearns and Delaware District Councilmember Mike LoCurto in September, and has sat in committee ever since.
To discharge the item to the floor, Kearns would need a two-thirds vote. But he didn’t even get the chance to lose that vote—the Council is divided five to four—because North District Councilmember Joe Golombek, who also chairs the Legislation Committee, objected to the late-file asking for the discharge.
“Contrary to popular belief, my opposition to this item has to do with the First Amendment and what it’s used for,” Golombek said.
“We can’t talk about this,” Franczyk said, looking to assistant corporation counsel Tim Ball. “Right? There’s nothing on the floor to talk about.”
Kearns, waving a copy of the article, interjected, “I just think it’s too important to—”
Franczyk cut him off. “We can’t talk about it.”
“If we were going to discharge it so that we could vote to receive and file it because it’s unconstitutional, I might agree,” said Golombek. “But—”
“We’re not talking about this,” Franczyk said. “What’s next?”
Niagara District Councilmember
—geoff kellyblog comments powered by Disqus
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