Councilmen Roger Anders and Charles Kirby pulled off a coup Monday.
The people of their districts voted in 2010 to put in place a council/manager form of government that reduced the number of districts from five to three, reduced the elected mayor to part-time status and required appointment of a professional city manager.
Anders and Kirby voted against a plan that the referendum and state law required they implement. Councilman Billy Jackson also voted against the plan, but he at least could point to the fact his District 1 constituents overwhelmingly cast their ballots against it.
In our representative government, the people rarely have an opportunity to express their views directly. In most cases, they must cast their ballot for the candidate they believe will respect their wishes.
When the people do express their will directly, as they did in 2010, it is a big deal. Not only should their representatives defer to a referendum result, they are legally required to do so.
In 2010, there were many solid arguments against passage of the referendum. On this page, we made them. Those arguments no longer matter. The people spoke. They triggered a state law that requires the City Council to abide by the will of the people.
City Council President Gary Hammon did not like the referendum result, but he understood the obligation it placed on him. He voted Monday in favor of submitting the referendum plan to the U.S. Department of Justice for review, a federal prerequisite to the change in districts. Councilman Chuck Ard also understood he serves at the will of the people.
Anders and Kirby scorned the will of the people and trampled state law in the process.
While Mayor Don Kyle deserves credit for following through on his campaign promise to revisit the referendum mandate, he deferred to the City Council at a time when the council had no discretion.
The people demanded a change in government, and nothing in state or federal law gives the council the power to change that result. Kyle could have bypassed the council, and he should do so now. He should choose a redistricting plan and submit it to the Justice Department.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, City Attorney Herman Marks advised Kyle he could not act without council input. Marks is the lawyer who convinced the council last year that a form letter from the Justice Department requesting more information was a rejection of the referendum result.
The people of Decatur issued direct instructions. Anders and Kirby decided they knew better than the people and that they are above state law.
As representatives elected and paid by the same people they chose to ignore, the two councilmen are on perilous ground.
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