Last week, soon-to-be-out-the-door Charleston City Councilwoman Anne Frances Bleecker floated an idea designed to bring more civility to the give-and-take of municipal elections. She proposed an ordinance creating a commission that would investigate claims that candidates had made false statements about their opponents, tore down their campaign signs, or engaged in other dastardly behavior. And if it was proven that one candidate had done so, the commission could issue reprimands or impose fines up to $500. The members of this monitoring commission would be appointed by the mayor.
Bleecker quickly found out that her idea had an ice cube's chance in hell of getting passed.
Prior to last Tuesday's Council meeting, Bleecker told The Post and Courier, "I am completely at peace with my loss and will exit gracefully in January, but I wanted to do something to say that this is not how we do business in Charleston."
Snort! Since when?
Bleecker felt her commission idea would stand up to free-speech scrutiny: "It's proactive in that it makes a statement that the city doesn't approve of the tearing down of campaign signs and sending out mailers with malicious lies ... What could be bad about civility and ethics? Who would vote against that?"
For God's sake, Anne Frances, listen to yourself!
Bleecker was on the losing side of a nasty small potatoes campaign against Timmy Mallard. During the campaign, Mallard's supporters disseminated traditional and electronic campaign materials alleging Bleecker obtained a Charleston resident parking sticker illegally. As evidence, pictures of Bleecker's car with an out-of-date sticker were released for public purview.
Having been a downtown resident since 1980, I don't know anyone else who doesn't have at least four years worth of expired parking stickers still stuck on their car windows.
In response, some of Bleecker's folks met the quid pro quo standard set by Mallard's peeps by sending out materials detailing Mallard's multiple arrests for DUI.
Both candidates denied authorizing said conduct, but then again that's why you have "people" when you run for office.
Regarding Bleecker's proposed ordinance, Mallard told the P&C, "For my part, I found my first election last month to be an altogether pleasant experience which allowed me to meet thousands of my neighbors for the first time."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Timmy Mallard I knew at Blessed Sacrament School and Bishop England High School.
Mallard continued, "I don't think the City of Charleston elections are any less civil than all other elections, and given our city's historic reputation for gracious hospitality, our elections are probably more civil than others."
As Ms. Bleecker can attest as well, it's much easier to be gracious in victory rather than defeat.
Anyhoo, at last Tuesday's City Council meeting, Bleecker withdrew her proposed ordinance, citing a lack of support among council members. Not to mention constitutionality, but I digress.
She should have floated this when Kwadjo Campbell was still around. I'm pretty sure he'd have loved another forum in which to bitch about the mayor.
Bleecker instead submitted a resolution, which means nothing in the scheme of things, that stated council's impatience with and nonsupport of negative campaign tactics.
Bleecker's continued City Council service was undone by a number of factors in my opinion, not the least of which is her decades-long devotion to Mayor Joseph P. Riley in the aftermath of the Sofa Super Store tragedy.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
But I think that this and her failure to recognize the nastiness of the previous contest between current Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson and former Councilman Robert George had ramifications among "the silent majority" types that live in her district. That and she didn't take Mallard seriously as a political threat until it was too late, and that's her fault.
It's a shame because Anne Frances Bleecker has been an excellent City Council member.
Time will tell what Timmy Mallard is made of.