Editorial, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1999

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Editorial, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1999

Tupelo’s voters shoulder an important responsibility this week as the Glenn McCullough administration ends in mid-term with his swearing-in as a director of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

His resignation, effective sometime Friday before an expected special meeting of the City Council, requires two serious considerations by Tupelo’s voters:

– The person they want City Council members to appoint interim mayor, serving only until a new mayor can be elected to serve the remainder of the McCullough term, which ends in 2001; and

– Potential candidates for mayor in the special election, which could be held before Christmas if the council acts quickly to set the process in motion.

The interim mayor needs a steady and experienced hand of leadership, seeking no advantage for political aspirations and able to keep the city smoothly functioning for the next six weeks. The interim, in the best scenario, should not be a candidate for the remainder of the current term. An interim mayor running for the rest of the unexpired term would immediately polarize the council and the city’s various political camps.

Candidates for the rest of McCullough’s term need to move quickly in qualifying and getting their message to the people. Voters, however, must give every encouragement to potential candidates including people not on the City Council who have experience, skills, vision and strength of character necessary in elective public service positions.

Civic leadership as much as tenure in elective office is one of the strengths a candidate could bring to the race. The results of leadership and endeavor, whether as an elected official, business person or non-elected public servant also count in measuring qualities of leadership in the next elected mayor.

McCullough became the first person of his generation elected mayor of Tupelo, and he brought vigor and enthusiasm to the office. Those qualities, of course, aren’t confined to the post-World War II generation. Some of the best public officials go into office at an age when many people look forward to full retirement.

The special election is as important as a full-term contest because the new chief executive must carry on fully all the responsibilities of the office shaping budgets, hiring major employees, directing executive policy, working with the City Council and representing the city at endless private and public functions.

An appropriate celebration of Mayor McCullough’s joining the TVA board must not overshadow the importance of leadership continuity in Tupelo.

Editorial 2

Grim suspicions of bizarre and deadly behavior in the cockpit of EgyptAir Flight 990 became the matter of an official criminal investigation Tuesday after a second analysis of the Boeing 767 airliner’s cockpit voice recorder.

Late Monday, news borke in Washington that Islamic dialect analysts had identified some of the conversation on the recorder as a prayer said by one pilot simultaneous with the beginning of the flight’s catastrophic final minutes. A translation was withheld by federal authorities pending analysis by Islamic religious experts.

Preliminary analysis suggests that one of the pilots intentionally may have caused the jet to careen out of control over the Atlantic and crash headlong into the ocean, killing all 217 people aboard. Only fragmentary remains of the plane and its passengers have been recovered.

A criminal investigation obviously should include a quick decision about the airline’s overall safety, with an advisory or warning to Americans if any substantive evidence suggests the crash in fact was a mass murder or linked to any terrorist organization in the Middle East.

The Washington Post’s final editions Tuesday morning reported that the two pilots may have fought over control of the aircraft one wanting the plane to remain airborne, the other seeking a catastrophic crash.

The investigation must not become a rush to judgment, but it must become a deliberately more intense search for the cause and any possibilities that it might deliberately be replicated on EgyptAir or any other airline.

The violent culture that seems able to tighten its grip around the world in the most unexpected ways demands additional scrutiny of public transportation, especially notoriety that accompanies aircraft disasters.