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No one was entertained by Aldermen Monsour and Mayfield’s ‘circus’

There’s an old — very old — political saying that if you want to keep the population at ease, give them bread and circuses.

In other words, give them entertaining politics and policies that will keep them happy. The Mississippi and Louisiana legislatures have been doing that for years.

Last Friday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen provided circus, but it was neither entertaining nor enjoyable.

I’m speaking of the heated discourse between Aldermen Alex Monsour and Michael Mayfield that devolved into a finger-pointing, name-calling melee reminiscent of a schoolyard argument between two children rather than what should have been a rational discussion between two leaders.

The catalyst for this incident was comments Mayfield made after the polls had closed and results announced during the April 6 Democratic Party primaries in Vicksburg, in which Mayfield earned another term as the North Ward Alderman.

“The things I’ve tried to do but did not get done, mainly because I could not get a second vote in the North Ward,” Mayfield said. “I need the citizens to help me do what needs to get done. If you’re on the board, you need a second vote.”

Monsour, who represents the South Ward, and is on the June 8 general election ballot in his re-election bid, took umbrage at the comment and took a “point of personal privilege” to express his disgust at the comment.

“I want the citizens to know the truth; in the four years that I’ve been here, Mr. Mayfield has never come to my office and asked me to second anything. Not one time,” Monsour said. “I’ll take credit for whatever’s out there that I’m responsible but I’m not going to take credit for not being asked for a second vote on something in the North Ward.”

The “debate” went downhill from there with accusations flying and Mayfield on several occasions calling Monsour a “liar.” It was disgraceful.

Have projects for the North Ward been removed from agendas? I don’t know. Did Mayfield ever meet with his South Ward counterpart for a second vote? I don’t know.

But given the context of Mayfield’s comments, they could be interpreted to mean he was urging people to vote against Monsour in his re-election bid and the re-election bid of incumbent Mayor George Flaggs Jr. In that case, it is easy to see why Monsour took offense, but there had to be a better way to do it.

As a former state representative, Monsour should know better and should have handled the matter differently. One way would have been to use Mayfield’s comments as a campaign tool to get re-elected to his South Ward seat.

The mayor just sat back and let the two combatants slug it out.

Mayfield could have handled his situation better. Given his comments, he should not have been surprised that one of his fellow board members would take offense. He could have brushed the complaint aside with a simple comment and moved on.

Of course, the more mature way would have been for Monsour and Mayfield to meet, sit down and calmly, rationally discuss their complaints outside of public view. That begins with two words, “let’s talk.” That makes more sense than pointing fingers and calling names at a public meeting where more important matters should take precedent.

In his book on politics, “Hardball,” Chris Matthews has a chapter called “Leave no Shot Unanswered” that discusses responding to accusations.

Sometimes the best, and most mature, response to a shot across the bow is to simply ignore it.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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