The headline: City Manager Lee Feldman is resigning. Despite retaining the support and confidence of four of his seven city commissioners.
The backstory: Feldman has had enough of Gainesville’s two-dimensional perspective on bigotry.
Perhaps the last straw came when Gainesville City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker placed her latest attempt to fire Feldman on the Sept. 16 City Commission Agenda.
September 16 also being Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish faith. A day that, by all rights, Feldman, a devout Jew, shouldn’t even be at the office.
This coming on the heels of Duncan-Walker’s last motion, just days ago, to fire Feldman. Which failed because no other commissioner cared to second it.
It would be unfair to suggest that Duncan-Walker is guilty of anti-semitism just because she scheduled her latest, almost certainty futile, attempt to fire Feldman on a Jewish high holiday. Likely she had no idea of the significance of that date.
Perhaps she simply had cause to believe that, this time and on this particular day, her motion would finally draw a second.
(It would be just as unfair to suggest that Duncan-Walker was engaging in retaliation against Feldman – as Feldman himself has been been accused of retaliation against city employees. Call it a coincidence that, when she was a city employee, Duncan-Walker was terminated by Feldman.)
Still, intentional or no, the act of penciling in his fate on the same day of his faith’s holiest day may have been the final straw for Feldman.
This seasoned administrator who has worked for numerous municipalities without drawing the barrage of complaints and accusations that awaited him here, in our enlightened university city.
So let’s just say that Feldman has had enough of Gainesville’s two-dimensional definition of bigotry.
On Sunday, Feldman went to City Hall to drop off his resignation letter. After less than two years on the job, the accusations, the harassment, the attacks on his character, his integrity and, yes, his very faith, had finally grown too odious to abide.
Almost since his first week on the job, Feldman has drawn complaints from city employees. And seldom a commission meeting passes without the usual self-appointed Jury Of Village Scolds accusing him of racism, sexism and – not to forget – pandering to “greedy” developers like some modern day Shylock.
And there’s the rub.
Feldman is the second city manager in succession to resign under a deluge of complaints, a Greek Chorus of public condemnation and sniping from commissioners who just want their employees to be “happy.”
And the only commonality this city manager shares with his predecessor is their mutual faith. (I’m sure it was sheer coincidence that then-City Manager Anthony Lyons was home with his family lighting Hanukkah candles, the night the city commission decided to subject him to a job performance review via public hearing. He found out about it via text.)
Both of them being Jews. Working in a city that, for all intents and purposes, seems content to define bigotry as racism and sexism. Religious biases need not apply.
Feldman is leaving. This despite the support of the city commission majority. And no doubt there will be champagne corks popping in City Hall and much rejoicing among the cast of the Greek Chorus.
But maybe, just maybe, his departure ought to call for more than a little soul searching in an “enlightened” community that refuses to tolerate discrimination in any form.
Not racism. Not sexism. Not homophobia.
And who knows? Some day, not even anti-semitism.