COLUMBIA, 10/14/11 (Op-Ed) -- In a Wednesday editorial, Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters -- who did not attend last Friday's library meeting with 4th Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley (left), but writes as though he was in the front row -- mischaracterized both the actions and intentions of those citizens who did attend.
He also, however, reiterated his support for Ward reapportionment Trial E. "Trial D dissidents have a perfectly good case to make against the plan," Waters wrote. "Trial E is a better option."
Good on the old man for that. But where Hank got it wrong was when he called meeting attendees "wolves," and their questions to Mr. Dudley "nasty ad hominem attacks" in a "melee, a disappointing display, a personal attack."
In my America, tough questions to elected officials are never personal attacks, especially when they focus on life-altering changes like Ward reapportionment.
My wife and I are not wolves, either, and we attended the meeting. We just got through battling another cancer scare. We have no time to be wolves -- and no interest. Life is too short.
Where the old man got it wrong was when he called meeting attendees "wolves," and their questions
to Mr. Dudley "nasty ad hominem attacks" in a "melee, a disappointing display, a personal attack."
Steve Calloway, Brent Gardner, Richard King, Lise Saffran, Jeremy Root, Jeannette Jackson-Thompson, Rex Campbell, Dan Hemmelgarn, Dan Cass: these people are not wolves, but among Columbia's leading citizens. And they were all there, asking questions -- and repeatedly thanking Mr. Dudley for his time and attendance.
Lise is making a big splash nationally with a gentle yet poignant novel about the relationship of mothers and daughters and how they deal with love. And Lise asked Daryl a lot of pointed, powerful, relevant, and appropriate questions.
Jeremy is a soft-spoken yet passionate man of the law and a gentle father to his daughters. Rex served this city for years as 4th Ward Councilman; Richard busts his butt every year to put on Roots and Blues and other festivals. Brent is a historic preservationist whose real estate clients swear by his historic home expertise. The two Dans are devoted to healthy living hereabouts. Jeanette is vice president of her neighborhood association and Steve is a well-respected public servant and private business person.
Retired Stephens College drama professor Peter Beiger (also spelled "Byger") did cry B.S. once, but Tribune reporter Andrew Denney didn't even get Byger's name right in his story about the meeting, calling him "Peter Vyger." (An earlier Trib story called Byger "Columbia's beloved teacher.")
And they were all there, asking questions -- and repeatedly thanking Mr. Dudley for his time and attendance.
I could go on about the other 40 people who attended, but the point is simple: Mr. Waters -- and Mr. Dudley -- act as though they don't know a darn thing about their neighbors.
Mr. Dudley presented himself as a marble statue, unwilling to entertain even a hint of compromise. Time and again, he told his constituents he was doing what HE thought was right, which meant unwavering support for Trial D, but with confused and ill-prepared explanations.
He made Freudian slips both dreadful and hysterical. He went on and on about how he thought Trial D would benefit the First Ward, which he doesn't represent. He seemed ignorant of First Ward history; the needs of his own Ward; and the dynamics of central city progress and politics.
His ears were in the room, but his mind and heart were elsewhere. It was apparent he was parroting talking points he hadn't memorized or fully understood.
Mr. Dudley's explanations in support of Trial D were wishy-washy, confused, and ill-prepared.
The display was painful to watch, partly because Mr. Dudley stood alone. Though his backers knew about the meeting, not one of them had the courage to stand up there with him and face the constituency their plans would affect.
So the wolves, in fact, did not attend Friday's meeting. They stayed -- as they always do -- in Columbia's political shadows.
New Recall Dudley Campaign Facebook page
[Ed. Disclosure: This writer lives in the Fourth Ward, opposes Trial D, supports Trial E, and after several editorials on the topic, feels it would be a conflict of interest for me to sign the Dudley recall petition.]