It is definitely political season and things are getting ugly in the 30th district race, and relatively innocuous things are getting blown way out of proportion.
This week at the County Commission is a perfect example.
On Wednesday, State Rep. Marc Gravitt sought to honor two people in front of the County Commission, one a recently deceased World War II veteran and member of the Greatest Generation, the other an elected official who has served in public life for a decades. Both worthy of recognition.
Unfortunately however, and to use parlance originated by Marines in WWII, there was a major snafu. Rep. Gravitt sought to have this item placed on the agenda for the Commission meeting by going through Mayor Coppinger’s office several weeks ago as he had done before in other such situations. For whatever reason, Mayor Coppinger’s office did not get that request communicated to the Chairman of the Commission, therefore the item did not appear on the agenda.
The County Commission is a legislative body which serves as a balance to the Mayor’s office. They work together but are separate structural governmental entities, both with process and protocols in place to keep business organized and moving forward. While late agenda items can always be added by the members of the Commission by majority vote, it is technically a breach of protocol and process for the Mayor, or anyone else to expect an agenda item be added at the last minute.
During normal, nonpolitical campaign times, this would likely not have been an issue but, Rep Gravitt is leaving his legislative position and he represents East Ridge where there is a highly contested race on the GOP side to fill that seat. And it has become very contentious with barbs flying from both sides on a daily basis. It is less than ten days before Election Day so things tend to get really distorted and political paranoia raises its ugly head.
So, Rep Gravitt innocently goes to the Commission meeting with the family of the war veteran and others and expects to be on the agenda, not knowing that somewhere along the line the request had not been transmitted from the Mayor’s office to the County Commission. Normally, I suspect this would have been quickly accommodated but things spun out of control like a lightning bolt.
Rep Gravitt, as he rightfully would do for such an occasion, issued an invitation to all the members of the East Ridge City Council to attend the ceremony because these were East Ridge constituents. Unfortunately only one member of the Council was able to attend and that happened to be Councilwoman Esther Helton, candidate for District 30. But, there are members of the Commission who are supporting her opponent, Jonathan Mason. It appeared to them, because this came as a surprise and not knowing the full background of requests by Rep Gravitt through Mayor Coppinger’s office, that this was a publicity event to benefit Councilwoman Helton simply because she was there. An objection to adding this item to the agenda was raised as they had every right to do and Rep Gravitt was not allowed on the agenda for this meeting. So, he moved his effort out of the Commission room and carried out the presentation, etc. It was not the best situation but it got handled.
To hear the rancor surrounding this situation, flowing from both sides, this act was a political stunt with two sides of the district 30 GOP legislative campaigns pointing fingers at each other.
I call it a comedy of errors during a highly charged political season created by a very innocent and even noble effort to recognize a deceased World War II veteran. We are losing more of them every single day.
I will say that Rep. Gravitt, who has served in a legislative environment, should have known better and should have gone directly to the Chairman of the County Commission for his request a few weeks ago, rather than going through the Mayor’s office, and I have told him so. Lesson learned for future reference. But I also understand how it happened and how he would have easily thought he had covered his bases by going through the Mayor’s office well in advance of the Commission meeting. In normal times that would have been the case. So, part of the blame is also laid with Mayor Coppinger’s office to not have completed the request. To his credit, Mayor Coppinger also acknowledged that snafu from his office. Things were said that should not have been, from both sides. It is time to stand down.
I know Marc Gravitt and have spoken with him. All he really should be accused is bad timing for trying to do a good thing.
At the end of the day, this really is much ado about nothing.
I am looking forward to August 3rd.
_ Ken Meyer