As promised, here’s some analysis of Tuesday’s city election:

Sadly there isn’t much to say about the results because nothing much has changed. The people of LaFayette (those who vote anyway) said overwhelmingly that they’re happy with the way things are. Those who voted for the status quo will get exactly that, and they deserve it – but the rest of us who voted against the city’s stagnant leadership will be dragged along with them.

With twenty years of underperformance on his resumè, mayor-for-life Neal Florence won his latest term 652 to 301, a margin greater than 2 to 1. As with the council candidates, Florence shows that it doesn’t matter how badly you do your job as long as you’re friends with the right people. LaFayette’s government doesn’t meet the needs of a majority of its residents, but bends over backwards to give the right people what they want – a tactic that greatly rewards the city’s leadership.

Mayor-wannabe James Mashburn didn’t do himself any favors with an underwhelming campaign that couldn’t get yard signs up until mid-October. Moreover, he failed to exhibit any spark or voice new ideas to separate himself from the current mayor. The professional tree cutter really had just two qualities that made him an attractive candidate: he was willing to run and he isn’t Neal Florence. Hopefully between now and November 2013 a viable candidate will emerge and present a strong challenge. At this rate Florence will die in office before anyone manages to put up a real fight against him – but even dead he would still probably get a majority of the vote from the 10% of LaFayette’s population that bothers to participate in elections.

Despite being arrested last year while researching liquor by the drink, eight-year council member and golf fanatic Norm Hodge also won by a vast margin. Councilman Andy Arnold squeaked out a win with only 30 votes more that his opponent. Considering the wide margins enjoyed by the mayor and Hodge, this is a bad sign for Arnold – he must have pottied in somebody’s cheerios to get so close to losing a race so otherwise dominated by incumbents.

Long-time city judge Barry Hollis lost to challenger Kenneth Maples by 46 ballots. This was not unexpected since most of the hand-lettered “KEEP Hollis” signs were spotted in vacant lots and in front of drug dealer’s houses. (Hint: never vote for the judge drug dealers prefer.)

The biggest issue on this year’s ballot was, of course, liquor by the drink. While many would say it was also the most important, we already stated the case towards it being a non-issue that makes no difference to the city’s long-term future. Either way, the measure was voted down by only 22 votes.

Media reports and both sides of the liquor issue are crediting this defeat to the city’s churches.
Church leaders basking in the secular spotlight can assure their congregations this meaningless political victory has accomplished something, thus relieving them of any future responsibility to help the community in a meaningful way.

Actual credit for voting down liquor goes to the mayor and city council, specifically Councilman Eric Tallent. Tallent is the one who called for the measure to include not just beer and wine but all liquor, structuring the vote in a way that guaranteed its defeat. That ensured enough opposition from church leaders, parents, and anti-drunk-drinking groups to kill the whole thing.

Not even Wayne Winters, the biggest (and most vocal) proponent for liquor sales was asking the council to approve mixed drinks or liquor. As he said in May, “that is not what the restaurant owners in town requested. They want beer and wine.” But the council went beyond what anyone had actually asked for and called for a vote that would allow any kind of alcohol to be served. An even-handed approach would have been a ballot with options for beer and wine, all liquor, or no alcohol at all – a situation likely leading to beer and wine sales legalized within the city limits. (The defeat of a beer-and-wine-only measure would probably have forced the council to end beer sales at the golf course, something they have absolutely no desire to do.)

By putting in place a non-binding vote that was sure to fail, the council took care of several problems at once: silencing critics who continually brought up the beer issue at council meetings, placating church voters by keeping alcohol sales out, keeping beer available at the golf course, and keeping alive a scapegoat for the council to hang its failures on. Any economic struggles or strife can now be blamed on the absence of liquor within the city; further insulating the council from any criticism for their lack of action to preserve what’s left of the city.

WINNERS: Neal Florence, Norm Hodge, liquor-opposing churches, status-quo
LOSERS: Liquor proponents, Barry Hollis, the 80% of LaFayette not represented by the council

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11 comments so far

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  1. Where do you get it that Barry Hollis was a long standing city judge? the father was, but this was the son, who had served only one term..

    His major platform or gripe was that fines for speeding and not stopping at stop signs etc. were too expensive for the common people to pay, with little or no concern that the idea behind fines should be to stop the behavior…

  2. I was paying more attention to the mayor and city council vote than I was to the judge vote. I don’t have much contact with the city judge and forgot that the Hollis we just had wasn’t the Hollis we had had before, if that makes sense.

    As you noted in your longer e-mail:
    “Chris Hollis only served one term when he ran for reelection…the whole campaign was designed to make people think that Judge Barry Hollis was the man running for reelction..this is why Chris used his first name of Barry instead of the name he actually goes by..his full name is Barry Christopher..”

    Or, see the 09/08/05 Daily Judge.

    Hollis The Elder stepped down in 2005 so his 34-year-old son could run unopposed. (Elder then ran for a seat on the city council, which he lost to Bill Craig.) This election, which kicked Hollis The Younger to the curb, was the first race where he faced any opposition

    Thanks for your additional information and clarification.

    -// The LaFayette Underground //-

  3. Hey LU, Chris used “Barry” because thats his first name. The qualifications paper, when qualifying, asks for the full name of the candidate. Thats what Chris gave them. If the whole campaign was designed to make people think that Judge Barry Hollis Sr. was the man running for reelction, Why did Chris walk door to door in Linwood, Dogwood Circle, Meadowview Subdivision, and many other places in LaFayette ?

  4. That’s a comment taken from an e-mail, not necessarily something I agree with – just passing the info along. The name on the ballot doesn’t necessarily have to be the same name as on campaign signs, but I can see why he’d want them to be the same to avoid confusion. Putting a big “CHRISTOPHER” between the “Barry” and ‘Hollis” would have done more to differentiate, but since the Hollis family made all his signs by hand that would have added up to more work and more money spent on paint.

    If he did walk door to door then he gets a good bit of credit for doing so; we get the feeling most people in the city government couldn’t find Linwood with a map and a magnifying glass (unless they were using the map and magnifying glass to set it on fire, anyway). Did he walk all the way to the top of Culberson Ave. and down Doc Love? Up Baker Hill to the city limits sign? Doing so shows a real dedication, a commitment to get down and meet the real people of LaFayette and show that you’re not intimidated by anyone, which is how a judge should be.

    Has ANYONE within the leadership of this city ever walked or pedaled down the street, down the sidewalks (where there are some), through the ditches? As an adult I mean. When you get intimate with the neighborhoods, the streets, the people, you can see a lot of things that get missed from the driver’s seat of a Buick heading from Alpine Dr. to the golf course.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  5. As a matter of fact …….. If you would take the time and travel over to Doc Love, Culberson, and Baker Hill, Teddy D’s, Ace Hardware, O’Reillys, Autozone, Bedazzled Beauty Shop, Shop Rite, and Tom’s pawn shop for a few businesses, you would find thats exactly what I did. ……The name was listed as Barry Christopher Hollis on the qualifying papers, Do your homework !

    See, I went to a number of businesses that would help get the message out too ……….Ask around, I walked door to door in several area’s of Lafayette and wanted to walk to all the houses but I burned my leg from kneecap to waist in the 3rd week of running and could not walk good for about three weeks. Had to have signs up too, so with making signs and the injury, I ran out of time. Kenneth worked hard and won the race ……… BTW Congrats to Judge Maples and his voters, You deserved your win and thanks for a good clean race.

    I don’t have a problem losing, I just don’t like it when someone says I was trying to hide my identity to win the race. Thats not true.

    While I am at it and I am not the judge anymore……..Maybe you’d like to know how it came to be that I even wanted the position. You see, in 2005 the mayor and council decided (right before election time) it was time to have our city judge position be appointed instead of elected. I found this out because I became unhappy with a few things in the city that had taken place. So….. I started reading the agenda and council minutes each month to see what was happening. I was startled to see that Municipal Judge appointment process was already underway. I asked former Judge Barry F. Hollis about this and he had no knowledge of what was going on. We both went to the next scheduled meeting to find out……… So during the meeting, Atty Womack was asked if he had looked into what would have to be done to get the position appointed. He had, and in order to have the job appointed legislation was the only way. The charter would have to be changed……there were a few hurdles. Atty Womack was asked how quick could this be done and well…….after that its a blur because Judge Hollis Sr. started trying to ask why this was even brought up and no-one on the council would even acknowledge his presents. To make the story short……..After numerous calls to several influential people…….When this was voted on it did not pass.

    But…….The damage was done, it was qualifying time, and the longer the former judge thought about it the more he decided it was best for him to just retire and get away from the aggravation and stress of all that mess. He was fed up with having a city council, mayor and city manager that wanted control of the judge and the fact that he had been fighting that for years was creating stress that he felt he did not need. I personally tried to get him to qualify up until the last day of qualifying. After researching his retirement options, and trying to decide wether he wanted to run again, he finally said I’m done. I told him if he was not going to run that I would, because if no-one ran for the position they would get exactly what they wanted to begin with. I did and that was it. Basically, If I had not ran for the position the job would have been appointed and the people of Lafayette would have a judge sitting on the bench that worked for the mayor and council in my opinion. That did not sit well for me.

    As for the judgeship, Congratulations again to Kenneth on his win, and a big THANK YOU to all the voters that supported me during the race. I hope to try again someday !

  6. Thanks so much for clarifying this. Maybe you or your dad will run again for council, since obviously that’s where the problem lies. My apologies for slighting you in the post, and again it was something brought up from an e-mail that we felt was worth discussing – not an original thought from the Underground.

    – The LaFayette Underground

  7. Chris, thanks for responding to the post. I think that we would all benefit from having city officials, ex-city officials, lose who ran to be city officials join in the the conversation, correct errors or assumptions that aren’t true, or at least tell your side of the story if its worth telling. I think the LU would welcome any of the current city councilmen, who are probably reading this and/or responding under psuedonyms to respond with who they are. That would be a good conversation!

  8. My pleasure. You guys have a nice day !

  9. Does the lack of response by either the mayor or a council member remind anyone of the “RED” phone on Glenn Beck’s desk? If it ain’t true let us know!!!!!

  10. If you ask me, the whole damn local government needs to go. These people running our local scene today are running it into the ground. How is Norm Hodge allowed to even sit on the council after being arrested at a HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAME FOR BEING DRUNK!!!! I mean these ‘selected few’ get to do what they choose in this town and I’m for one Sick of this shit.

  11. the charges were dropped because he was not drunk.who else would want the job?