Pettiness and personal agendas continue to distract Milton’s government from important issues facing the City. Last night’s city council working session was an excellent case in point. Once again, a White Columns HOA issue headlined City Council’s agenda. The underlying and trivial issue was whether PTVs (personal transportation vehicles) will be permitted on the streets of White Columns subdivision. And I want to be clear, I don’t care one way or the other. It is an issue for the residents of White Columns alone to decide, NOT Council. White Columns has a board that it has elected and that it recently re-elected that makes these decisions. The City has many dozens of higher priorities.
Tonight, the hook was set by Council Members Rick Mohrig and Jan Jacobus (both from District 3, which has not had a competitive race since 2009). Mohrig has increasingly taken on the role of Mr. Moore’s patsy and chief defender on Council. I understand that Mohrig and Jacobus were the 2 council members responsible for the inclusion of this HOA item on the agenda. (I believe transparency demands that sponsorship of all council agenda items be revealed, but that is a topic for another day. Suffice to say that the drafting of council agendas is an intentionally murky affair.) However, there is some cause for cautious optimism. Unlike in the past, fellow council members did not take the bait. In fact, three council members smartly uttered not a peep. And Mr. Jacobus quickly abandoned Mr. Mohrig to his repetitive and transparently illogical arguments. There was no support for Mr. Mohrig’s plea for a text amendment. Mr. Mohrig blathered on for most of 18 minutes, with only brief comments from staff and the mayor. Finally, the City Attorney mercifully ended Mr. Mohrig’s droning monologue by stating he would investigate the matter and report back to council. (I would urge citizens to view Mr. Mohrig’s rambling arguments and ask yourself whether he is worthy of representing your interests for a third term.) Only Mr. Mohrig seemed not to realize that this issue is likely dead. Unfortunately, assuaging Mr. Mohrig will likely cost the city significant coin for the services of the City Attorney ($275 per hour) to investigate . . . more of your tax dollars wasted. Thanks, Rick! It is interesting to note that Mr. Mohrig frequently casts himself as a protector of your tax dollars, but his stances on the two most recent White Columns matters have cost Milton over $14K in legal costs. Chalk it up to spending OPM . . . other people’s money.
I think all of Council—even Mr. Mohrig—understood that this latest White Columns HOA issue is just one more battle in a long-running and increasingly bitter struggle in White Columns . . . and most council members have little appetite to further wade into the White Columns quagmire. I hope most council members are also realizing that with their indulgence of Council Member Paul Moore (e.g., not punishing him for his ethical violations; originally taking up the WC speed sign issue; his appointment as Mayor ProTem), Council is reaping what it has sown. I am a bit sympathetic as I (and many other citizens) have been similarly duped by Mr. Moore and Laura Bentley. I was once closely allied with both Moore and Bentley. Moore and I served on Ms. Bentley’s campaign committee, which always met at my home. And often I did their bidding . . . or as Laura stated I “did the heavy lifting.” However, the battles we fought involved existential threats to the city . . . not nonsense. We were fighting zoning laws, community septic systems, rezonings, sewer extensions, and gratuitous granting of variances. We were fighting and defeating developers seeking to bend and break zoning rules to increase housing density in Milton beyond what was permitted. Large purposes infused our advocacy. We cared about principle and process . . . at least I did.
I had high hopes that on council Bentley and Moore (I would have supported Moore back then) would secure our victories and build upon them, but alas this was not to be. Instead, the City has embarrassingly and incomprehensibly descended in a morass of pettiness that it seems incapable of escaping. Leadership is lacking. Council seems more like a clubby, PR-focused mutual admiration society than a serious governing body upholding the rule of law and citizens prerogatives. The City is going backwards. This City government’s predilection for the trivial means citizens’ priorities are being largely ignored. The White Columns PTV issue would not even rank in my top 100 issues facing the City (nor would the City’s changes to the ordinance for cost/data-sharing agreements with HOAs for speed calming devices or even the City running its own elections—a topic for another day).
One interesting element of the evening was Mr. Moore’s withdrawal from the discussion based on his lawyer’s advice and “pending litigation” (i.e., his appeal of conviction on 3 ethics charges). When Mayor Jamison stated that Mr. Moore was “recusing” himself, Mr. Moore corrected the mayor and stated that he was merely withdrawing from participation, not recusing himself—a distinction without much difference. Apparently, Mr. Moore still believes it is appropriate for a council member to insert himself into his own HOA’s issues. Conversely, I believe that the political high road requires an elected official to stay out of his/her HOA’s issues. I hope the candidate that runs against Moore captures the video clip of Mr. Moore’s recusal. I suspect the vast majority of Milton’s citizens do not want the City micromanaging HOAs and do not want council members getting mixed up in their own HOA’s issues. Over the past year, Mr. Moore’s increasingly shameful antics seem to have increasingly alienated him from his neighbors, Milton’s citizens, and his fellow council members. Mr. Moore is becoming politically radioactive. He should be easy to topple in the next election. Always amusing, Mr. Moore seems ever intent to lead with his glass chin. Lead away Mr. Moore!
Advocating For Good Governance,
Postscript: Does any reasonable White Columns resident, including Council Member Moore, believe that the public airing of petty squabbles in White Columns is good for home values or golf club membership? Are prospective home buyers more or less likely to buy in White Columns because of these disputes getting airplay at Council? Surely, it must be dawning on all but the densest White Columns residents–whatever side they support–that Paul Moore has become a serious liability for the subdivision. And Miltonites that live outside White Columns need to be asking the same question about whether intrusion by the City into HOA issues is good or bad for the City’s image and associated impacts on their home values, business vitality, etc? The ceaseless middle school drama in White Columns needs to end. And I believe a first step in ending the dysfunction is to unceremoniously turn Paul Moore out of office.