Gina Gregory’s honesty lies in serious question, now that she has engineered another three-year extension of the final penny of Mobile’s hideously high combined (city/county/state) sales tax of 10 percent.
On the matter of the “extra penny” of the City of Mobile’s sales tax, I and others already have noted that when the Council’s now-president, Gina Gregory, first voted for it in 2010, she swore it would only be temporary, and only one time. Then, when she crawfished in 2012 and voted to extend it, she publicly said two things: a) that it would only be temporary, and b) that she would not vote to extend it again without a referendum — a full and open vote of the citizens of Mobile specifically on that issue.
(see the very bottom of this post for a lengthy parenthetical musing….)
For now, though, let’s focus on what Ms. Gregory said in public in 2012, when she broke her first pledge about the tax and made the second pledge that this week she again so brazenly violated:
“I support public safety. And that is easy and very popular to say, but I will do more than just talk the talk,” she said.
Gregory cited a recent report by the Fire-Rescue Department that said that so many of its trucks were broken down that it had to shut down some fire stations for lack of vehicles to equip them. Some of the truck are nearly 30 years old. One of the trucks caught fire while it was parked in the fire station…. That scenario clearly didn’t manifest itself, she said, but it’s clear that the city does not have the money it needs to tackle infrastructure problems and lure new businesses, particularly those expected to flock to the area to supply Airbus with parts for the commercial jets they will be assembling at Brookley Aeroplex….: “Most importantly, it would be foolish and wrong not to do what I have to support the very men and women in this City who serve and protect us-our police officers and firefighters and all of those who provide the very basic services that keep this City operating. ‘Caver,’ whatever you want to call me. That’s better than not making sure that our police and firefighters have the tools they need to protect us and themselves.”
Okay, so we are to believe that her own public pledge was made of gossamer because she thinks police and fire protection and infrastructure are of a higher calling than her promise, right?
Well, then, explain this: As she engineered the sales tax extension again this week, Ms. Gregory also engineered a massive raid on… you guessed it… police and fire protection and infrastructure.
What the “Gregory Amendment” on Tuesday on the city budget (not on the tax, but on the spending side) did was move $2.5 million to the “General Fund” (for retiree benefits), directly out of an account called “Capital Escrow.” And what is Capital Escrow,” according to the exact line items of the budget? “Equipment, Public Safety Administration.” “Equipment — Fire Turnout Gear.” “Equipment, Police Vehicles.” “Equipment, Fire Department Remounts.” “Equipment — Fire Department Vehicles.” (And also NPDES Equipment, which is the river-litter traps required to be installed as part of a court-ordered consent decree.)
So her word is breakable on behalf of public safety, but public safety in turn is discard-able when it comes to kowtowing to retirees who, even under the mayor’s budget, would not be hurt in this budget year anyway.
The word “integrity” means something more than technical honesty. It means honesty plus a “wholeness” that involves intellectual and attitudinal consistency and coherence.
On all factors involved in the word, then, Gina Gregory’s integrity is not just in question, but in doubt.
(Only a gray area of journalistic ethics makes me hesitate to flesh out what she said in 2012 in non-public contexts, because there is a point at which something said “off the record” can always be used on the record if the person granted the off-the-record privilege has told a lie. The question is, when does a broken promise, or promises, become the functional equivalent of a lie or lies, for purposes of the rules of journalistic ethics? Technically, a broken promise and a lie are two distinctly different things — of the same genus, perhaps, but not the same species. The first can involve the speaker discussing something in good faith, rather than knowingly lying, and then just changing her mind, meaning that at the time of the off-the-record conversation there was no deception intended by the public figure, and thus no erasure of the journalist’s duty to keep the conversation off the record. Any mind change from an absolute pledge by a public figure does, of course, amount to a form of dishonesty — but the question is whether the mind change is it of the sort or degree that negates the journalist’s promise to be off the record? What if, as in this case, the violation of the pledge is of a repeat variety, raising doubts, in retrospect, about the sincerity of the pledge in the first place? For a journalist, it’s an interesting dilemma. Ms. Gregory should be aware that there is good argument on the side of assuming that the off-record arrangement has been superseded by her own falseness.)