By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist
July 15, 2014
Larry Stevenson is a very unique member of the Sedalia City Council.
Over the last few months he’s captured our attention as one of the most controversial members of the city administration — op-eds from both the radio and print sides of the Sedville media painted him as a highly non-traditional councilperson.
And there are absolutely some valid concerns to be considered, but on the other hand I kind of admire Stevenson’s passion. He might have occasionally conducted himself in a surprising manner and he might have been a disruptive presence at certain city council meetings, but I believe he was always doing what he thought would be best for Sedalia.
In this modern world, when people have been cultivating a healthy mistrust of bureaucracy, it is almost refreshing to hear about someone barreling through the proceedings and doing anything and everything to achieve their ends.
I don’t agree with many of his initiatives, and it’s never good to foster hostility between people — you can be openly hostile with your constituents, or you can be openly hostile with your host government body but if you’re hostile toward both of them you might run short on support.
But with all that said, I kind of admire his fire.
And even if his time on the council is short, Stevenson will have a lasting legacy in the annals of the City of Sedalia. The Sedalia City Council recently approved Ordinance 10194, which creates a code of conduct for the officials of the City of Sedalia.
Someone who hadn’t been paying attention might assume that this is just some self-congratulatory busy work — simple and agreeable legislation passed for the sake of passing legislation.
But we really know this is the Stevenson Ordinance, passed to prevent future wacky hijinks from potential copycat council members.
Though that doesn’t mean it is not also simple and mostly agreeable. It’s full of things that most people and therefore most city council officials would assume is already a natural part of the deal. It’s an ordinance made out of the once unwritten rules of city administration forced to become real legislation.
“The Sedalia City Council agrees to work as a team to find the best ways to meet the needs of Sedalia residents,” the ordinance states. It’s just like Lincoln said, “A house divided itself cannot stand.”
Since early man developed the first government-style system there have been people trying to shake it up. And most passionate elected officials eventually learn they have to strike a compromise between wanting to tear down the system and being involved enough in the system to oversee legislation to get it torn down. Everyone has to play the game called standard procedure, at least to a certain degree before they can be taken seriously.
“Councilmembers shall use their public office for public good and not personal gain” — politicians have always struggled with that, perhaps now even more than they ever had. With the economic influence of individuals, companies, lobbying bodies and Super PACs growing more each day it’s easy to ask not what you can do for your position, but what your position can do for you. The pay itself is probably nothing compared to the potential benefits if you’ve got low morals.
Of course, there aren’t many Super PACs in Sedalia. But if they continue to wield that kind of influence on a federal level they’ll eventually filter down to the smaller levels of government. Maybe we’re inadvertently heading a problem off at the pass.
A good city council does have to work together, and respect each other (in public at least) and be willing to listen to their constituents.