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Our View: Like Washington, like Joliet City Council

Unhinged bickering among elected government officials.

Secret deals kept out of the public eye.

And constant ranting about the rotten media.

Just another day in Washington, right?

Except these examples of partisan brinkmanship, executive power mongering and xenophobic finger-pointing at the press didn't go down in Washington. They've been happening right here in town with our own city council.

Last Tuesday's emotional debacle over the dismissal of Interim City Manager Marty Shanahan was a good example of just how uncivil our elected civil servants have become lately.

But first, perhaps a little back story is in order. Shanahan was appointed to the position last year to fill in for David Hales, who according to some council members, decided to quit after his first five months on the job and was given a $90,000 parting gift for his troubles.

But this isn't Shanahan's first rodeo. He also served the six-month interim between City Manager Jim Hock's 2017 retirement and Hales' hiring.

Tuesday's dismissal wasn't about Shanahan's performance – though he has been criticized by some for his secrecy regarding the naming rights deal for the Slammers' stadium.

Rather, it was a public power struggle between the mayor and three council members who wanted to appoint Shanahan as city manager on a permanent basis versus the five council members who want to open up the job to a candidate search.

But while Tuesday's arguments over Shanahan's dismissal did not make for great civil discourse, they did make for great television (check out to see for yourself):

* Shanahan making note of his decision-making skills and listing his achievements prior to the debate;

• Council member Jan Hallums Quillman playing to a crowd of Shanahan's supporters before, in a classic "why can't we all just get along" moment, motioning for the dismissal to be tabled;

• Mayor Bob O'Dekirk laying out Shanahan's achievements since 2015 like a professional resume writer. And then putting a stammering council member Pat Mudron on the spot by cross-examining and then criticizing him for his use of the word "they" in a Herald-News quote.

• Council member Larry Hug rhetorically (a bit theatrically) asking, "why" a decision on Shanahan has been drawn out. And then, at length, answering himself.

Why the council's speechifying is all well and good, it really served no purpose. The issue had been discussed at length in executive session at the precouncil meeting the night before. So Tuesday's performance amounted to little more than public grandstanding.

So what have we learned? This is a democracy, and a majority of five always trumps (no pun intended) a minority of three.

Getting personal with colleagues by embarking on unhinged rants doesn't work particularly well in Washington, nor does it work in Joliet. What the majority voted for – to open up the position to multiple applicants – was not unreasonable. And when the minority didn't get their way, they went to some extreme and at times bizarre lengths to reattain it.

City council members should be above bickering. When they're out in public, at least.

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