Disorder and chaos cause some to leave public forum

By Melanie Posey

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - A Bessemer town hall meeting almost resulted in a fight Tuesday night.

The forum called "Let's Talk True Facts" was supposed to be an opportunity for residents to have their concerns addressed. But the meeting quickly turned to the hot-button topic of electronic bingo.

In front of nearly 100 residents, council president Earl Cochran and councilor Louise Alexander both voiced concern for the issue. But when Bessemer Mayor Ed May rose and began to speak against the issue, Cochran grabbed the microphone, telling the audience that May was not going to control the meeting.

A few moments later, when the mayor began to speak again, another confrontation started. This time, Bessemer police officers became involved. And several residents, including Bessie Pippins, left the meeting.  "I am totally upset because we're supposed to respect each other," Pippins said. "Whether you like what I say or not, I'm entitled to be heard."

Sylvia Blackerby said she was embarrassed. "I'm very disappointed in the way adults had acted. I felt it was chaotic and it was grandstanding."  

Mayor Ed May said he too was embarrassed by the incident. "It's not embarrassing for me, because I can take it," May said.  "But it's embarrassing for the people who've elected us. But at least they see who they have in their elected officials."  

Cochran said he too regretted what happened.  "I apologized to the people and I did so because it's not me," Cochran stated. "But I'm tired of seeing this city go to ruin because we can't get funding in this city."  Tuesday's forum was the first of four such meetings.

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