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How Mayor Rawlings Saved Face, Kept Some Black Friends and Screwed Some Hispanic Ones in the Process

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Oh, wouldn't you know it? Leave it to me to get all gooh-gooh-eyed and sweety-feets about things. Then cruel reality comes crashing in. It's because I'm just too innocent of heart.

Just yesterday, I had my zither out singing softly to you about how the mayor had done the right thing in the municipal judges fracas. He changed his mind at the last minute and voted against a plan to create two bogus full-time judge jobs for a couple of lawyers who are wired to the minority wing of the city council.

And, look, I still think Mayor Mike Rawlings did a good thing. It's a question of how good. Maybe it was good but not quite as good as I said. And perhaps my head was turned a bit by the fact that the good thing he did was the same good thing that was urged upon him only the day before here on this very page by my favorite writer, my own self.

I wrote about how the city courts are a mess because they're run under the table by small cabal of traffic-ticket lawyers. Let's not go back into all that. It's weird, and it's complicated.

Anyway, the mayor said at the council table Wednesday that he was very concerned about these traffic-ticket lawyers, so he was going to change his vote and vote against the bogus jobs for the two judges who appear to be closely associated with one of the biggest traffic-ticket kings.

Yeah. He did. He voted against. But I missed a few details. Luckily for me, I have lots of people out there who have my cell phone number who are really good about calling me up and telling me about stuff I got wrong. So many I almost don't want to even answer my cell phone some days. Yesterday I did.

So here's what really happened. The black council members had recruited the Hispanic council members to create a seven-vote bloc to do the dirty and create jobs for the two judges -- one black and one Hispanic. The mayor, a white guy, was the swing vote to create an eight-vote majority. Originally, he voted with the minority bloc in favor of the whole deal.

At some point the mayor obviously decided he needed to vote against something because of the ticket-lawyer issue. And, truth be told, he may never have seen my item here. The person who really stirred that issue was council member Angela Hunt. She was in his ear telling him that the ticket-lawyer issue was very dirty, and he was going to be in a big mud puddle if he blindly supported the seven vote minority bloc.

So here's what went down. The mayor comes in late to the meeting Wednesday trailed by black council members Dwaine Caraway and Tennell Atkins, the trio of them looking all smirky like they've been hiding out behind the gym smoking cigarettes. The mayor votes against the two judge jobs for the black and Hispanic lawyers, citing his concerns about the ticket lawyers. Council votes. The two-job deal goes down eight to seven with the mayor the swing vote against. Bang. No judge jobs.

Two seconds later, Atkins proposes a one-job deal, just for the black judge, Cheryl Williams. Monica Alonzo, a Hispanic council member -- thinking something must have slipped Atkins' mind? -- says, "I would like to, if they would accept a friendly amendment, add Mr. Gonzalez (the Hispanic judge)."

She wants Atkins to amend his motion. Since this is all about a minority bloc, black and Hispanic, and since Atkins is trying it again for some reason, she wants him to put her guy back in the deal, too.

Atkins says, "I'm just going to do Cheryl."

That would be no. He will not accept her amendment. If the Hispanics want their guy back in the deal, they will have to do their own motion separately. So Alonzo makes a separate substitute motion to add her guy back in.

Council votes on the black judge. The mayor, who has already flipped once on this deal, flips again and votes for the black lawyer. All the minorities vote for the black candidate. It's eight to seven in favor. Bang. Black judge got a job.

The black council members all look like cats that have just swallowed canaries, except for Carolyn Davis, who, as usual, looks adamant but confused.

Then they vote on the Alonzo motion to put the Hispanic guy back in. All the minorities vote for the Hispanic. Bang. But the mayor flips again (third flip), this time against. Eight to seven, motion fails. Hispanic doesn't get a job.

So what's the box score at the end of the day? The mayor gets points for being concerned about the undue influence of the ticket lawyers. The black council members get their judge. The Hispanic council members get the shaft. Played. Not squat. And now they all look sort of furrow-browed like Davis, like, "What just happened?"

How about at this point I just shut up?

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