Seating and symbolism

What with two new members, there was a festive atmosphere at the June 12 council meeting. Everyone was happy -- except Commissioner Ernest Page.

He took exception to a new seating arrangement that places the council members in order of their districts -- one through six, from left to right -- with Mayor Glenda Hood smack in the middle. Page, who was moved one seat further toward the end, didn't like that he wasn't consulted. "To have my seat changed is kind of an insult, really," he said.

Richard Levey, the city's chief administrative officer, said it was his idea. "If you are somehow offended, let me apologize," he told Page. "This is a new commission for the new millennium." The seating arrangement was an extension of that, Levey said.

Even so, it looked as if Hood was deliberately bringing the new commissioners, Sheehan and Vicki Vargo, under her wing. They now sit on opposite sides of her; under the old arrangement, they would have been the two farthest away.

"She wanted the two new commissioners close to her to try to break the influence of `Don` Ammerman, `Betty` Wyman and Page," all of whom backed Gordy for mayor, said one longtime observer. "It's a dynamic-influence ploy. It puts all five women in a row. ... But it looks a little patronizing to have the two black commissioners together `at one end`. You probably wouldn't be sensitive to that if you weren't black."

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