1st Ward leaders expressed mixed opinions on how to go about filling the vacancy left behind by the resignation of Anthony Davis.
“I’d like to have somebody that’s going to represent us,” said Joseph Robinson, pastor at the Assembly Holy House of Prayer. Robinson, who has been living in the 1st Ward for over 25 years, said it makes little sense to keep the seat vacant until November 2015.
“I don’t think that seat should be vacant for 11 months,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large. Davila, who lives in the 1st Ward, said council members should hold a meeting to discuss whether waiting almost a year is the prudent course of action.
“We need to have somebody fill that seat. There’s city business that has to be done, and I think that vote is important,” said Davila.
“1st Ward folks need a champion right now,” added David Gilmore, city open government activist. Gilmore, who also resides in the 1st Ward, said he understands why council members would rather wait than appoint someone to fill the post, but added the reasoning behind it is political and faulty.
A majority of council members said they have no interest in making an appointment. Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, said the needs of the 1st Ward can easily be handled by the three at-large council members.
“I think I understand why they’re doing it, but I don’t accept it because of the need outweighing political reasoning,” said Gilmore. “Just not filling for fear of political advancement is the wrong reason.”
Robinson, whose church sits on Arch Street, said the 1st Ward has been a “disaster zone” for far too long and requires attention. “All the other wards are building up other than 4th and 1st Wards,” commented the pastor.
Robinson expressed skepticism at at-large council members being able to handle his ward’s needs. The pastor said if one person dedicated to that ward was unable to address the issues, drugs, violence, and poor infrastructure, he doesn’t see how three at-large council members, all from other wards save Davila, will be able to.
“I know it will be a long time,” said Corey Teague, school board member. “If they decide to appoint someone now it’s going to run into heavy politics because it’s going to be the city council deciding who is going to sit there.”
During that long time candidates interested will be able to inform ward residents what they intend to do upon capturing the vacant seat. “In that time frame whomever is serious about running will have the opportunity to get out there in the community and to really show who they are what they will do,” said Teague.
Teague, who lives in the 1st Ward and has made known his interest to run for the, said: “If someone is appointed they will be in the control of the council members which I think will disenfranchise the 1st Ward.”
Gilmore suggested the council pick someone, who has no intention of running for the seat come election time to represent the interests of the 1st Ward in the interim. Jane Williams-Warren, city clerk, said the council has 30 days to appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Davis’ term.
Davis pleaded guilty earlier in the week to having accepted $10,000 in bribe money from an ostensible real estate developer. He held the seat that is currently vacant for almost 12 years. Davis was elected in 2002 after then 1st Ward councilman Jeffery Jones relocated to the 3rd Ward.
“You can appoint somebody as long as they are in alignment with what the 1st Ward needs,” added Robinson. “We’ll be pushing hard to get the community together to demand that we get a representative for us.”
“At the end of the day 1st Ward doesn’t have representation,” said Gilmore.