All hail 'Robert's Rules of Order'

Friday, January 23, 2009

Imagine our surprise when Chapel Hill Mayor Carl Cooper told the assembled crowd in his town's meeting room that anything he might read in the daily newspaper from Nashville could be obtained for free on TV.

In context, and to be fair to journalists in "a municipality north of here," Mayor Cooper was talking about recycling and how to reduce solid waste. We were at a public hearing to help develop a plan on what to do when Cedar Ridge Landfill closes.

While the idea of getting all your state, national and world news only from the TV stations in Nashville is worthy of debate, it's more amusing to repeat my immediate reaction. It was to say "God bless you, mayor." His statement was an indication that he reads this newspaper and even more of an indication that he's read this opinion page.

So we were especially pleased to receive his letter to the editor, published here today. It includes an answer to my question last month when I asked him: how can a meeting without a quorum be recessed?

Mayor Cooper replied that he didn't know, but we now have a written response and the executive summary is that it's OK according to the charter and a book titled "Roberts Rules of Order" and the town Charter.

The larger issue of my column early this month was that there's increased interest among local leaders in doing things the right way. Procedures were the subject of a long debate in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex when Commissioner Billy Spivey challenged the process that led to the approval of three contracts.

"Roberts Rules of Order" was again cited as an answer, but the commissioner soon realized that the copy of that book at the Marshall County Library was an early edition, so he drove to the closest bookstore with the most recent edition, arriving at the Cool Springs store within a quarter hour of closing time.

Mayor Cooper concludes by questioning my impartiality and accuracy when covering politics. I regret he's said so. Others have called and said they were referred to me because I told it like it is, or that I'm a straight shooter, regardless of whether or not I'm in the NRA. Then there was the lawyer who called on the phone in the mid 1980s, laughing and saying: "You must be doing something right. Everybody's mad at you."

I'll conclude this by saying that I regret we don't have a cartoon drawn to portray the "unknown mayor" like we had when there was an "unknown applicant" being interviewed for a public job. That "unknown applicant" has his cartoon framed in his new office. Apparently we did something right by him.