As I WRITE this column it appears -- despite whatever incendiary opinions we may hear in the "public comment period" a few hours before -- that Rochelle Small-Toney will be terminated as city manager at this week's City Council meeting, if not prior to that due to some late-breaking development.

I say this not because I have any particular inside info -- most of the worst dirt is already public knowledge, specifically the total meltdown of the completely non-functional City purchasing department.

I say this because things have spiralled so downward so fast that one of two people simply must lose their job at this point: Small-Toney or Mayor Edna Jackson.

Savannah finds itself in an old-fashioned constitutional crisis, and clearly one of these ladies has got to exit for this local Watergate movie to end.

That can only be Small-Toney. Or so it would seem as of this writing, anyway.

After being part of the original group which lobbied hard for Small-Toney's hiring, and after showing months of Job-like patience with Small-Toney's diva hijinks and bull-in-a-china-shop management technique, apparently even the genteel Jackson has had enough.

The purchasing fiasco is the major driver, considering the City's credit rating -- and hence the ability to reliably deliver pork into the ol' pork barrel -- depends on that department's smooth, or at least minimally competent, operation.

And the barrage of embarrassing and negative headlines has to got to strike fear into even the most safely gerrymandered alderman's heart.

But just like in the movies, at some point these things always get personal.

I have to wonder if Mayor Jackson has ever channel-surfed and hit the Comcast city government channel. For the last year or so, good ol' Channel 8 -- which overall does a really professional job -- has aired a constant stream of programming glorifying Small-Toney, presumably at her direction. Softball interview after softball interview, segment after segment.

Small-Toney has her own TV channel!

I'm not suggesting Mayor Jackson is a petty person; far from it. I'm saying I'd be mad too if I worked my butt off to get elected mayor and then I turn on my TV to see the city manager's face on the screen acting as if she's the mayor and not me.

It would get under anyone's skin. It gets under my skin and I'm not even mayor of my own house!

Firing Small-Toney is the ultimate no-brainer. But as always in Savannah, it's not that easy. The truth is that Mayor Jackson is taking an enormous political risk, and that cannot be stressed enough.

A vocal portion of the black electorate which voted for her as the first African American female mayor and strongly supported hiring our first African American city manager has let it be known they're very upset with her push to fire Small-Toney. These activists, who never let any local issue not be racial, have returned to the same incendiary tactics they used when they first entered the city manager debate.

During the infamous 2011 town hall meeting held by former Mayor Otis Johnson, they poured salt in every open racial wound from the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras and rubbed them raw with stick-it-to-The-Man rhetoric straight out of the ‘60s.

It was depressing and surreal, as if the last half century never happened, as if there isn't an African American in the White House, as if all the gains were for nothing.

Only this time, "The Man" is -- Edna Jackson?!

Yes, it's come to this: The same people who played the race card in lobbying for Small-Toney's hiring are now accusing a black woman of being racist against black people and sexist against women!

I can think of a few things more absurd than that, but not many.

Now, I've been assured by people who've studied the latest grad school theories on institutional racism that it's entirely possible for a black woman to hate black people and women. I submit that such a theory, however useful in a thesis paper, distorts racism and sexism to the point of meaninglessness.

(This is apparently the claptrap the youth of America are being taught in exchange for their exorbitant college tuitions. No wonder the rest of the world is passing us by.)

Back here in reality, 99 percent of people -- including the vast majority of African Americans -- would say that accusing Edna Jackson of racism against African Americans is nothing more than vile character assassination. Hopefully her accusers' latest desperate, mean-spirited grasp at relevance will be their last on the local scene.

Still, necessary and inevitable though it is, Small-Toney's firing is only the first step. Cleaning up her mess and compensating for the huge loss of institutional knowledge caused by her own firing of so many longtime employees will take years -- certainly every bit of the rest of Mayor Jackson's first term in office.

While the mayor finds herself in a bed partially of her own making, it's too late for Monday morning quarterbacking. What the mayor needs now is our support. She needs to know that the voters have her back during this time of crisis.

It's time for all the people who've bitched and moaned about Small-Toney all this time -- guilty as charged, right here! -- to get off the sidelines and be active stakeholders in the search for the next city manager.

We owe this to the mayor we elected to serve on our behalf, who is now taking an enormous political risk on our behalf. Most of all, we owe it to ourselves.



About The Author

Jim Morekis

Jim Morekis

A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series... more

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Connect Today 10.22.2016

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