City Councilmember Sharon Hightower rails against discrimination at nearly every City Council meeting.
At the Tuesday, Jan. 3 City Council meeting, Hightower herself was discriminated against when a legitimate motion she made was ignored.
Hightower opposed allocating $1.5 million in money freed up by American Rescue Plan funds to Habitat for Humanity. Hightower said that because Habitat was just about to receive major funding from Bank of America she thought that $1 million would be enough and the $500,000 could go to “minority builders.”
Councilmembers Goldie Wells and Yvonne Johnson both expressed support for this funding split.
City Councilmember Tammi Thurm made a motion to allocate the full $1.5 million to Habitat and it was seconded by Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter.
So, with a motion on the floor, Hightower made a substitute motion, also called a motion to amend. This is a normal parliamentary procedure. Hightower had the floor and had every right to make a substitute motion or a motion to amend. Her substitute motion was seconded by Councilmember Goldie Wells.
What should have happened, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, is that the substitute motion made by Hightower and seconded by Wells should have taken precedence over the main motion and have been voted on first. Hightower’s motion should have been discussed and voted up or down. If it passed then the main motion made by Thurm would have been voted on as amended. If it failed then the main motion would be voted on as it was made by Thurm.
However, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that Thurm would have to accept the amendment to the motion and asked City Attorney Chuck Watts how to proceed. Watts advised Vaughan that the amendment would have to be accepted by Thurm.
Thurm did not accept the amendment and, although Hightower had made a legitimate substitute motion and received a second, her motion was ignored.
Thurm’s motion to allocate $1.5 milliion to Habitat passed by a 5-4 vote.
The vote broke down along racial lines. The five white members of the City Council, Vaughan and Councilmembers Thurm, Abuzuaiter, Zack Matheny and Nancy Hoffmann all voted in favor. The black councilmembers, Hightower, Johnson, Goldie Wells and Hugh Holston all voted against the motion.
The City Council moved on to the next item on the agenda without ever giving Hightower’s substitute motion the discussion and vote that it deserved.
Considering the vote on this issue broke down along racial lines, it’s worth noting that before the 2022 election the City Council had a majority of black councilmembers.
However, with Matheny replacing former District 3 Councilmember Justin Outling, the City Council now has a white majority.