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  • Last modified 70 days ago (Sept. 5, 2018)

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It’s Govern-O-Matic, as seen on TV

Lots of things sound like great ideas — until you actually buy into them. Just check your basement. You’ll find all the evidence you need in a stack of Ginsu Knives, Veg-o-Matics and Pocket Fishermen from K-Tel and Ronco.

Marion County unfortunately seems poised to buy a shiny new Flowbee Haircutting System to trim up all the unruly elements of its current three-member county commission.

Two more county commissioners could make for the as-seen-on-TV miracle we have been hoping for. Or it could be just another State Fair sales pitch that leaves us with 67 percent more disagreement — and 67 percent more salaries for elected officials.

What it surely should not be is what commissioner Randy Dallke said it seems to be: an attempt the “pack” the commission, the way Franklin Roosevelt tried to do with the Supreme Court, merely because some people don’t like some current commissioners.

Let’s imagine that expanding the commission means we would be able to add to the fray a runner-up from the latest election. Welcome to the county commission, as its fourth member, someone who already is suing the county, accusing it of rigging the election so he couldn’t win.

Adding that kind of voice to the commission will surely accomplish a lot, we imagine.

A five-member commission sounds like a great idea — until you realize it will simply open up the commission to two more people just like the people who are already on it, except not quite as good because they will be the fourth and fifth choices.

It’s not as if adding two more members means we’ll suddenly begin to attract the best and the brightest. We had that chance with just three commissioners. Why do we expect the position to suddenly attract people it never has to date? We certainly didn’t see this happen when we expanded city councils from three to five members. In fact, a lot of cities are having trouble filling all five seats.

This is a lot like last year’s county administrator idea. It sounds great on first blush, but when you realize what actually will happen — more money spent for the same or additional amounts of bickering — the idea quickly becomes something only Ron Popeil would be willing to sell.

Perhaps we should take elements of both ideas and consider electing a single county executive. He or she would take direct administrative control over all but the county’s constitutional offices, much as a president or governor does, and would preside, voting only in cases of a tie, over a four-member commission elected by district to set general rather than specific policy.

Perhaps then we might attract officials with the right stuff to both lead and be responsible to voters while not leaving us mired in divisive debate over administrative trivia. Or, at least, we’d have something else to haul off to the basement.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 5, 2018

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