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DAVIS: In Bryant, dysfunction goes from exception to rule

June 30, 2014

I want to make it clear from the outset that I do not find any particular joy in what you are about to read. The words that follow are not political, are not biased, nor are they meant to support or denigrate anyone.

I am simply putting forth an opinion.

Nothing more. Nothing less. An opinion that I believe is shared by a growing number of people.

Bryant is a city that has had more than its fair share of controversy and adverse publicity in recent years. The attention is not fabricated, nor is it a figment of an overactive political imagination. It is what it is — and, as they say, it ain't good.

The common denominator in each of the adverse stories is that the subject centers around people, not events. Not happenings. Not situations.

People. Specifically the City Council and the mayor.

I have been fortunate to meet and come to know each of them. They are all fine people and I consider each to be a friend. I honestly believe that in their heart of hearts, they want what's best for the city they have been elected to represent.

But the level of rhetoric and allegations being made have created a situation that has grown from the exception to the norm and in the process stifles progress. Sides have been drawn with the apparent objective of one-upping the other.

There is nothing wrong with trying to reach the truth of any issue. Failing to do so is as much of an issue as ignoring a problem. But to continually search for the ticks on a dog without paying attention to the welfare of the animal itself will eventually result in the rapid decline of the creature's health.

Think of all that could be accomplished if the energy currently expended by picking at scabs was directed toward finding solutions to problems in a mutually respectful environment.

Don't get me wrong. The problems prevalent in Bryant should still be explored until a cause is determined. Finding solutions can be done at the same time, but personalities and agendas not compatible to good government seem to be preventing any such attempts.

Again, I don't view the problem to be any individual or group of individuals. I see it as a process and practice that has become embedded deep into a pattern of governance.

In recent months, the number of individuals talking to me about their growing displeasure of the negative attention Bryant is garnering has grown almost as fast as the number of FOIA requests submitted to the city.

Local businesses are growing wary with their perception of infighting among the people who form legislation in the city. They tell me it is becoming increasingly difficult to hit the moving target of issues that in many cases are tabled for months, some even close to a year.

This same perception is not new and an issue that was brought to a council meeting almost a year ago.

In mid-2013, a consultant presented an assessment report about the city, what it has to offer and areas to address in order to attract growth. When he finished presenting the report, the consultant asked to comment beyond what he found with his assessment. He spoke of the perception in the business community of the rift between the council and the mayor and how it comes across to businesses seeking to locate within the city limits. It was the consultant's opinion that the adversarial atmosphere in city government would continue to be detrimental to progress if it continues.

I listened to his words, but my attention was on the faces of the council and mayor. They were being called out in a public forum and I wanted to see their reactions. When the consultant spoke, all council members and the mayor shook their heads in agreement.

That was nearly a year ago and the argument could easily be made that the situation hasn't improved, but has gotten worse.

The disconnect in the matter for me and what I find so difficult to reconcile in my brain is that I know each and every member of the council and the mayor all want to move the city forward. They each want what's best for the city.

The problem is that they can't seem to get out of each other's way, put differences aside and look forward instead of backward.

I've seen them honestly try. They are good people.

If matters proceed as they appear they will, sides are drawn for a showdown in November for control of the city and it won't be a pretty sight.

Caught in the middle will be the third and largest group in this story — the people who are rapidly becoming tired of all the good in the city being overshadowed by infighting.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone steps forward and directs the two sides to sit in the corner while control is taken from both.

Brent Davis is the editor of The Saline Courier. He can be reached at bdavis@bentoncourier.com.

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