SaveGonzales members had much to celebrate after Monday’s meeting of the City Council. The group targeted two Gonzales council members, Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel, for recall in April and what transpired on Monday can only have fanned the recall flame.
And I do not refer to Lacombe and Vessel voting to reduce Gonzales’ police department funding.
Gary Lacombe accused Mayor Barney Arceneaux of malfeasance in office in a June letter to Louisiana’s Attorney General. His complaint centered on the city’s time-honored practice of allowing its Planning Commission members to serve for longer than the five years envisioned by ordinance. The AG definitively stated that Arceneaux has not committed malfeasance but Lacombe would not be appeased by a mere AG’s opinion.
After all, the Attorney General is only the highest ranking legal official in the State of Louisiana.
Councilman Lacombe may very well have a valid point. Just because we’ve always done it that way doesn’t necessarily make it right. But to allege malfeasance in office is politics of the worst sort. Undeterred by the AG’s opinion, Lacombe requested that the issue be placed on Monday’s Council agenda.
Barney Arceneaux was ready for the attack he knew was coming and, more importantly, so was City Attorney Ryland Percy. Lacombe pathetically blundered about, pitiably pleading ignorance when it suited his purpose, shifting to snarky condescension if he perceived an opening.
Waiting in the wings was Councilman Timothy “Out for Blood” Vessel.
Since Vessel’s inauguration he has seized on any and every opportunity to criticize Barney Arceneaux. If the grass is too high in an abandoned lot, Vessel screams at the Mayor. If there’s an obstruction in one of Gonzales’ drainage ditches, Councilman Vessel is sure to hold the Mayor accountable. While I am willing to concede his prowess in these fields of endeavor, it is his demeanor that I find objectionable.
Monday’s meeting took the prize for incivility and lack of decorum. If buffoonery were art, Vessel would have painted another masterpiece.
“Point of order!” he continued to bellow whenever the discussion displeased him.
Timothy Vessel handling a copy Robert’s Rules of Order is the walking embodiment of an oxymoron. Not satisfied with his new found status as parliamentarian, Vessel argued points of law with City Attorney Ryland Percy. At one point it seemed that he tried to broker a peace between the warring Council factions.
“I’m a man!” he began. “We’re sitting here bickering like kids.”
Everyone in the Council chamber knew this was going to be good.
“All it takes is for you to put that shovel down,” he advised Mayor Arceneaux to the utter befuddlement of everyone within earshot. “If you put that shovel down we can move this city forward. You keep digging a hole for yourself.”
It brought the house down. Vessel apparently has forgotten that he is the target of recall while Mayor Barney Arceneaux enjoyed an 84% approval rating in an April poll. To Vessel’s credit, he has no qualms about attacking Police Chief Sherman Jackson whose approval rating is even higher.
The sad fact of the matter is that Vessel and Lacombe would be totally ineffectual and little more than a sideshow if not for the third member of their unholy alliance. Councilman Terance Irvin sat there, quietly for the most part, surveying his handiwork. Who pieced this coalition together if not Irvin?
Irvin has served on the Council since 2000. To join in the attack over planning commissioners’ length of service was rank hypocrisy on his part. By the way, Irvin participated in the votes to spend down Gonzales’ once $30 million fund balance too. That hasn’t prevented his criticism.
Terance Irvin could be the peacemaker on this Council if he had a mind to. His lengthy tenure alone could enable him to be the agent for compromise. But that is the last thing Terance Irvin desires.
His life’s ambition is to occupy Barney Arceneaux’s office. He doesn’t hide the fact. To achieve that goal he allied himself with the two recall targets. The grand strategy is to take every possible shot at the current mayor, no matter how baseless, trivial or nonsensical.
There is one glaring flaw to the strategy. Every so often you have to explain yourself. It takes rhetorical skill to defend even defensible political positions from attack. It requires much more to defend indefensible positions but there are politicians up to the task.
That politician is not Timothy Vessel. He is not Gary Lacombe. And he is not Terance Irvin. All three ran from the media like scalded dogs on Monday.
“I knew because of the investments made in infrastructure we were going to have some growing pains,” Irvin was quoted in the Weekly Citizen this week.
That’s how he explains the acrimony amongst the Council and Mayor. He repeated the “growing pains” palaver without breaking stride toward the City Hall exit on Monday.
The plan to soften up Barney Arceneaux for the “Irvin for Mayor” push looks to have backfired. He has been hoist on his own petard.
I wonder what Irvin thinks of the “Tim Vessel 2016” signs.