• Last modified 769 days ago (May 27, 2020)


It’s time to put up
or shut up

News flash: Blue-green algae cures COVID-19. No, not really. But wouldn’t it be nice? And isn’t it about time that we started thinking about things that would be nice instead of running around with bandanas over our faces like a bunch of train robbers from a “B” Western we watched after exhausting everything else on Netflix?

If you’re like us and have grown sick and tired of worrying about becoming sick and tired (and possibly worse), it’s time to start thinking about maladies we actually can do something about — like, maybe, the county commission.

Tuesday is the deadline for everyone who ever complains about the courthouse antics of Curley, Larry and Moe, now expanded to include Curley Joe and Schemp.

The only good thing about last year’s gerrymandered redistricting and expansion of the commission is that this year — quite unusually — four of the five not-so-solemn solons who spend so much of our tax money have to face the voters at the same time.

We’re talking about instant majority here, folks. This is democracy in action. The only thing that can stymie it would be inaction on the part of potential candidates.

We’ll have no one but ourselves to blame if none of the people who enjoy taking shots from the cheap seats are willing to jump on the field and stand for election themselves.

Talk is cheap. And inaction devalues even the two-cents-worth of people who continually complain.

A lot of other elective jobs are open, too — good jobs, all answerable to “we, the people,” who as employers rarely if ever decide to impose layoffs or furloughs just because there’s nothing to do.

Now is the time for all good men and women to toss their hats in the ring or put gags over their mouths for the next two years — not that we’ll be doing either of those things. Journalistic ethics and residency requirements mean we can’t. But do as we say, not as we do. It is, after all, our democratic duty.

It’s time to un-confuse all the bureaucracy that surrounds and confounds us. A few days ago, we listened to a radio broadcast from the BBC detailing a new outbreak of COVID-19 in the place where it all began, Wuhan, China.

A reporter went on and on about how the latest patients all were from a particular apartment complex where an elderly resident had felt sick for several months but somehow had not been tested or counted among the original COVID sufferers.

While listening, we suddenly were struck with how we knew so much more about how the disease was progressing halfway around the world than we did about how it was progressing in our own county.

And that realization came on the heels of what turned out to be a false report last week of an additional case in Marion County. After a lot of checking around, we learned that the additional case actually was a typographical error in a tally that already has been confused enough by the late addition, without distinction, of “suspected” cases from long ago to “confirmed” cases reported weeks earlier.

We know the answer to the question of why officials have refused to let anyone know much of anything about any of the cases in our county. A federal law called HIPPA restricts access to patient information. Normally that’s a good thing. We don’t want the entire world to know we’ve been treated for flatulence — though in all likelihood places like Google and Facebook already have figured it out and are steering ads our way as a result.

Pandemics are special situations, however. The needs of the many may, at times such as these, outweigh the needs of the few. If a confirmed COVID patient works someplace we haven’t recently been but might consider going, we ethically have a greater right to know than his or her right to privacy.

It’s not that the person’s name would have to be given. There are plenty of ways to provide essential information without revealing a person’s actual identity. But government has generally refused, probably because bureaucrats and the hordes of lawyers they hire seek to remain 100% risk-free. As a result, they often over-interpret every regulation to the extent that it no longer accomplishes its original intent.

Dropping by the courthouse, passing through your health check, and signing up to run as a candidate may not prevent all such things. But it could be a start. Without scrutiny from average citizens, little things that actually are quite important things can become lost.

The same federal government that managed to make sure the president’s name appeared on every one of those $1,000 stimulus checks it mailed out also managed to ensure that at least 5% of the forgivable loans it gave out to small businesses went straight into the well-lined pockets of bankers. If the program will cost taxpayers $659 billion, that’s $33 billion right off the top. We’re not saying it’s bad. It’s just something most of us didn’t realize and might have wanted to think about.

Things like that are what elected officials get to consider and what the rest of us might not even notice. Reading a real newspaper like ours is a good first step. Being informed and voting is another. But so, too, is actually running for office.


Last modified May 27, 2020