As the Jackie Dole Community Center was filling up with Thirsty Hippo Supporters and media, John Lee and his legal council made their entrance to a packed house. Noticing several news cameras and reporters along with 175 plus Hippo supporters, a disconcerted Lee and council meandered to the front of the community center; then quickly exited to a back room. It was then that the back door politics began, during what was supposed to be a public hearing.
Thirsty Hippo owner Sarah Newton, Council President Kim Bradley, Carter Carroll, and their related barristers began back room negotiations while Dave Ware (Ward 4) served as a liaison between the back office meeting and an impatient crowd, Henry Naylor (Ward 5), and Deborah Delgado (Ward 2). Whispers from audience members were heard that John Lee and council were too intimidated to get in front of such a large crowd and media. Others claimed it was a face saving maneuver for Lee.
Councilwoman Delgado (Ward 2), grew extremely impatient after what became a 40 minute wait and went to the back office meeting room to retrieve the parties who called for this very public meeting. As Delgado walked to the back room she could be heard saying, ” This is a public meeting and they need to get on with it.” Many in the audience were also equally frustrated with the back door politics taking place.
Lee didn’t appear before the council in lieu of media and the many Thirsty Hippo supporters. What became clear to many (and this reporter) was Sarah Newton had all the leverage she needed to win the appeal with the overwhelming support she received from the community. Lee appeared disconcerted when he saw the show of support and media presence.
UPDATE – Video of Mr. John Lee Jr.’s subsequent withdrawal of his appeal can be seen here in the 4.3.12 Hattiesburg City Council Meeting, and the agreement reached between Attorney John Lee and the Thirsty Hippo owner Sarah Newton can be read here.
It a rare move at a March 19th, 2012 Hattiesburg city council meeting Ward 4 Councilman Dave Ware departed from traditional city council protocol, addressing concerns raised by Joseph Rawson in the citizen forum. Rawson a regular at council meetings went before the city’s leadership to bring to their attention The Open Meetings Act of Mississippi and the potential violation of this act when Mayor Johnny Dupree appointed his Bar Ordinance Advisory Committee and when the committee held meetings. The committee, which consisted mainly of city officials and employees, was drafting legislation to be submitted directly to the council for a vote. They never kept minutes or even meeting times; thereby raising questions whether this committee was operating lawfully under the Mississippi Open Meetings Act.
After Rawson spoke Ward 4 Councilman Dave Ware asked council president Kim Bradley if he could address Rawson. Council president said,” Mr. Ware, we normally don’t address but…” Councilman Ware then interjected and distanced the city council from the committee by saying, “This council had nothing to do with the formation of, the policy of, the meetings held by the committee.” Ware, Vice President of the city council appeared distance the council from this committee’s formation; laying it’s sole responsibility at the office of Mayor Johnny Dupree. City officials rarely if ever address citizens in the citizen’s forum portion of the bi-monthly Monday meetings. A detailed analysis of the Mississippi Open Meetings Act can be found here.
On Tuesday’s, March 20th City Council meeting Mayor Johnny Dupree honored lab techs from the area.
Councilman Carroll to revitalization consultant, “Land code does not seem to be adequate” for restaurant and bar parking.
Bob Barbour with the Orion planning group appeared before the Hattiesburg city council to discuss the study his company is doing to help improve the development code in the three major corridors of Hardy Street, Pine Street, and Broadway Drive. During that presentation Councilman Carter Carroll reached out to Mr. Barbour for guidance with land code development as it relates to bars and restaurants, referencing the previously scheduled meeting involving Tom Lee and Sarah Newton of the Thirsty Hippo.
“Men and women sleeping in the woods, fornicating in the woods, deficating in the woods, smoking crack in the woods”- Reverand Siggars
Expressing his concern over the “eye sore” of sex and drugs behind his church, Reverand Siggars pleaded for help getting the homeless population removed from the woods behind his church. The video of this exchange can be see here.