From The Selma News:
Mayor’s comment garners much media, public attention
By Kelly Lake, News Editor 17.JAN.08
An off-handed comment made by Selma Mayor Charles Hester during a rezoning hearing last week has earned him much media attention. The mayor commented on the huge crowd that turned out for meeting and said maybe one day “we’ll have a lynching” and not have to worry about that anymore.
He apologized during the meeting to everyone in attendance and personally to one man who felt the comment was directed at him. Since the meeting, the mayor and his comments have been the subject of many print, web and television news articles. A video of the meeting, complete with his comments is posted on YouTube.
“I’ve apologized – many times,” said Hester. “That’s all I can do. I apologized at the meeting, to Council members, and to people I meet on the street. It (the comment) wasn’t directed at anyone.”
Public opinions about the mayor’s comments, for the most part, are the same – he shouldn’t have said it. However opinions seem to differ about what should happen now and whether or not the mayor’s comments had any racist meaning.
Hester says that he didn’t make the comment about any one person or race of people.
Others say it is time for Hester to step down as mayor and still others say it is time to let the issue drop.
Councilwoman Jackie Lacy said she expected the mayor’s remarks would grab media attention, “given the Jena 6 controversy.”
The word lynching carries with it a racial connotation, she said, especially when it comes from an official of the opposite race.
“Even though I believe he (Hester) is sorry, it still was an uncalled-for remark in public,” said Lacy.
Sylvia Cox, one of Selma’s black residents, said she doesn’t believe the mayor meant anything by the comment.
“I think it was a slip of the tongue,” said Cox. “It was not directed at black people. They (people in general) were lynching white people before they were lynching black people. Black people, in general, in this town don’t even go to the town meetings. There were maybe three or four at that meeting (rezoning hearing). They don’t even go to the polls for the most part. They have no right to complain.”
Cox said it’s time to “let it go.”
“Mayor Hester has apologized. Accept his apology and go on,” she said.
Others are worried about the image of Selma that is being portrayed on television, on the internet and in local news media. Hester said that while he shouldn’t have made the comments, he is not responsible for the negative media attention it has brought to the town.
“I’m not the one who got it on television or the internet,” said Hester.
Hester said a television news reporter tracked him down at church (Selma Baptist) last Wednesday and knocked on the door to get an interview.
Some people have called for the mayor to resign and have called on Council members to make that happen.
Councilwoman Cheryl Oliver said that elected officials are accountable to their constituency for the public remarks that they make and that remarks, such as the one the mayor made, are usually followed up on by the media as a matter of public record.
She said that she received one phone call after the meeting from a person asking the Council to consider requesting the mayor to resign. She was asked to pass the request on to fellow Council members.
“The comment was inappropriate and I am not expecting similar comments from the mayor in the future,” she added.
Councilman Eric Sellers took a similar stand.
“The mayor’s remarks were inappropriate,” said Sellers. “Our duty as elected officials is to carry out the business of the Town of Selma in a professional manner with the best interest of all of Selma’s citizens in mind. I do not believe that the mayor meant to offend anyone and I believe that he is sincerely sorry for what he said. It would be my hope and expectation that this type of incident would not be repeated.”
He went on to say that he has not heard from anyone asking for the mayor’s resignation nor would expect to.
“I certainly do not and cannot blame the media for picking up on this,” said Sellers. “That is a reminder to each of us regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. At this point, I consider it a closed issue.”
Councilwoman Debbie Johnson could not be reached at press time.