After the last couple of months, you would have to be almost delusionally optimistic to feel anything other than dismay about the city of Washington and its leadership.
The surprise resignation Monday of Washington’s acting police chief, Robert Wilson, came within days of residents being shot and wounded at a home on East Katherine Avenue, with two alleged gunmen still at large, and the murder-suicide of two bar patrons on South Main Street. Wilson’s predecessor, Robert Lemons, lasted only one year as police chief, and the beating death last October of Washington & Jefferson College student Tim McNerney remains unsolved.
Oh, and lest we forget, City Councilman Matt Staniszewski provided some comic relief in March when trying to explain that a test message he sent on the city’s emergency alert system saying “Brian is gay” was not, in fact, disparaging a college buddy’s sexuality, but was stating the fact that he was “gay” in the older sense of the word – a happy-go-lucky kind of chap.
Like a dysfunctional family badly in need of therapeutic intervention, torrents of anger and resentment came pouring forth at Monday night’s city council meeting. Mayor Brenda Davis was accused of being a bullying, meddling micromanager by police union officials, who went on to say that she was inexperienced and lacked the necessary skills to manage the department. Davis countered that she was the one being bullied by a male police force, who were discriminating against her based on her gender. Davis even claimed she was mocked when a mannequin wearing a wig was placed in the chief’s chair at some point or other.
Many of the woes that bedevil Washington have been in the works for many years, from the decay and departure of industries that were once its economic foundation to the decline of the downtown business district spurred by malls and, later, big-box stores. No mayor or council, no matter how charismatic, aggressive or savvy, could have effectively battled against globalization or the irrevocable changes in how we shop. But having a city administration racked with petty disputes, juvenile rivalries and bad behavior certainly does not help the city’s cause.
As one of our letter writers notes on this page today, it’s time for all concerned to grow up.