Otto von Bismark once said, “Laws are like sausage, it is better not to see them made.”
Although law wasn't made, certainly history was made in a like manner last week at the Mount Oliver Borough Council meeting. The March meeting went too late and ended with a vote to “reorganize” the council and elect new leadership with Jim Cassidy taking over as president.
In what can only be described as an ugly session, candidates for upcoming election of the borough council “hijacked” much of the meeting to circumvent established procedures to force their own agenda.
At Mount Oliver Borough Council meetings the council president presides over the meetings.
On this night, as was his preference, Council President Donald Cornelius set no time limits for public hearings. It was this preference, one designed to allow the free expression of ideas and opinions in council chambers, that ultimately led to loss of control of the meeting and loss of control over the council for Mr. Cornelius.
While the challengers may have been only trying to get their points across, it came across to not only some current members of council but to some members of the gallery as grandstanding. The dialog was more suited to an episode of Perry Mason than a borough council meeting with questions and an “aha” moment from the questioner following each answer.
Government should be transparent, each action should be accountable and explainable, but there are also some things that should be done behind closed doors and one of those is contract negotiations. The borough council took the correct position that contract negotiations should be done in private and after a proper evaluation: whether it is with the cable company, the public works department or the chief of police.
The public support for the Mount Oliver police chief is well deserved; he has done a commendable job during tough times in the borough. But the council should be permitted to evaluate and negotiate and ultimately, justify their actions.
With the borough being considered for a half million dollar grant from Allegheny County, this isn't the time for the council to appear to be in disarray.
Hopefully Council President Cassidy can take control of the council and keep the public hearings free from political grandstanding and speechmaking. Borough officials have to show Mount Oliver residents and the county that they are under control and competent to do the job.