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When the Greek philosopher Aristotle famously quipped, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” he probably didn’t have the mayor of Lawrenceburg in mind.
Were he alive today, though, that’s probably just what he’d think about the leadership vacuum that exists regarding the mayor’s cemetery debacle.
The problem begins and ends with her. When the city council met last week, aside from saying she wasn’t aware of a staff problem pointed out by Councilman Ken Evans, she offered nothing to a roomful of grieving people who at least had the nerve to stand up and say their piece about the city’s draconian cemetery policy.
As usual, it was the city attorney — who hasn’t been elected to a thing — who extracted the mayor and say-nothing city council from the hot seat by deftly interceding and offering not only his thoughts on the issue, but to meet individually with people and help resolve their problems.
The mayor did the same thing a few days later, this time while announcing that the council will hold yet another public forum on the cemetery troubles — as if that problem hasn’t already had a thorough public airing.
After making her announcement, we asked the mayor to share her own thoughts on the cemetery policy, which requires plot owners to remove all objects from gravesites not attached to a headstone. She refused, and played the tired “I’ll do as instructed by city council,” card.
So, we asked her again, this time stressing that we are interested in her thoughts as mayor, and she played that card again.
So, we asked a third time and got what amounted to the same, sterile answer.
We certainly understand that it’s not the mayor’s job to answer our questions. Frankly, she is no more obligated to accept or return our phone calls than anyone else.
But she is obligated, if only by title, to lead during difficult situations and not pawn off that duty to the city council, her attorney or anyone else.
At a minimum, the mayor could have said she understands the issue, has considered how emotional people are about it, and offered some empathy if nothing else.
Instead, she dodged the question completely, leaving the impression that she either doesn’t have an opinion or is afraid to go on the record without first having her comments vetted by, well, her attorney.
No, the newspaper certainly isn’t owed a comment, but the people so deeply and emotionally affected by this act of city government certainly are.
After all, it’s the mayor who has blithely ignored this ordinance, and it’s she more than anyone else who is directly to blame for this problem. She was city clerk when this ordinance was created in 2002, and has been mayor for nearly half the time it has been in existence.
Yet it took a small group of people to complain last year about several wooden crosses erected on gravesites in lieu of headstones to force her — via her attorney — into action. Had she lead on the issue from the beginning and enforced an ordinance she clearly had a primary roll in creating, those grieving people who are upset at its sudden enforcement could have been spared the emotional and financial burden this has caused.
This issue will be hashed out again at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Senior Center, and there’s no doubt dozens of grieving people will ask that this policy be altered to allow them to keep mementoes and other items on their loved ones’ graves.
If the mayor and council hold true to form, none of their passionate pleas to change the ordinance will amount to a hill of beans. In the city council and mayor’s minds they will have again appeased the masses by letting them vent. No action will be taken and the council will adjourn without so much as a peep, leaving those who came to speak wondering why they bothered.
Unless that ordinance is changed, what should happen is that the mayor should address the crowd and spell out in no uncertain terms that it will be enforced, as written, and that the issue is settled. In other words, she should lead.
Of course we don’t expect that to happen. After all, aside from being abhorred by nature, a vacuum also is a place where sound does not exist.