You dare to question me on my performance as an elected official? In public? What audacity. What impudence. Off with her head!
Langley Mayor Tim Callison didn’t utter those exact words when he rebuked one of his constituents before a packed city council chambers on Tuesday, but instead used the modern equivalent of “Shame on you.” The woman’s terrible offense was that she confronted the mayor for not attending the large community meeting that was held earlier this month on sanctuary cities.
His outrage earned boos and laughter from the crowd, an appropriate response in our opinion. While Callison had an understandable excuse for skipping the meeting — he was in town but preoccupied with ailing immediate family members — elected officials do, on occasion, need to be reminded that they are public servants, not unquestionable monarchs. Their leopard-fur-lined velvet capes should never exceed ankle length.
Unfortunately, Callison’s attempt to shame a member of the public on Tuesday wasn’t his only stumble. It was the last of several missteps, perhaps the most notable of which was his threat Monday to resign if the council approved a sanctuary city ordinance.
There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion. In fact, we think the mayor should have been clear about his from the beginning. How elected representatives feel about any issue under the sun is the business of every voter. It’s how they choose their leaders. But this wasn’t an opinion, it was an ultimatum — Do what I think is right, or I’m taking my ball and going home.
Similarly, three council members who attended the large community meeting mentioned above are facing a review by the ethics commission for running afoul of public meeting laws. Callison, responding to a complaint, turned them in. We think that’s kinda cool, but also a bit unfair. As city administrator, a $55,000 a year job, the council relies on his expertise to run meetings lawfully. He and his staff are the experts, the council is the policy maker. This may not have been a city meeting, but it was sure to be attended by a few council members and city hall could easily have asked if a special meeting notice was warranted. Instead, it took action to punish those who made the effort to hear from constituents on what was clearly an issue the public cares about a great deal — nearly 200 attended.
Callison is bright and, overall, doing a fine job of running the city. But his handling of the sanctuary city proposal was less than stellar. Instead of leading with grace and being upfront with his positions — he kept his opposition largely secret until Monday’s bombshell announcement — he let his personal feelings get in the way and revealed himself to be remarkably thin-skinned.
When The Record questioned him Tuesday about his silence and asked him to respond to criticism concerning the topic, he scolded the reporter for asking, saying it sounded like “character assassination” and how “very disappointed” he’d be if the newspaper printed a story critical of him.
Prepare for disappointment, Mr. Mayor. Newspapers and the public can question you, or any other elected official for that matter, about any topic we see fit. It’s our right, and there’s absolutely nothing shameful about it.