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  • Last modified 205 days ago (Jan. 16, 2020)

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Welcome, Shemp and Curley Joe

Those viewing county commission meetings for entertainment will be happy to see that the cast has been expanded from three to five and that the weekly performance has been extended from a half-day to an almost full-day extravaganza.

Those looking for the county commission to accomplish anything of value now that it has expanded to include more than just Curley, Larry, and Moe will be disappointed.

Monday’s vaudevillian routines were dominated by a stone-cold discussion of the intimacies of how road rock is tested.

Silly us. We thought the purpose of hiring a county engineer instead of a road and bridge superintendent was so the engineer could handle technical details and commissioners would not have to micro-manage things they know nothing about.

Thank goodness they relented and decided not to hire a county administrator. The goal for that position would have been much the same.

It’s clear, however, that commissioners aren’t ready to give up their practice of holding court on infinitesimally small details in a system that is so focused on trees that it doesn’t even realize it’s in a forest.

In a dilly, dilly of a move, they later voted to advertise for yet another emergency preparedness coordinator — one more full-timer to join the one we already have, even though the biggest disaster the county is likely to face is its ever-swelling payroll.

Confronted with a lack of volunteers for the thankless job of membership on the county’s planning and zoning commission, commissioners also began the task of expanding rather than contracting the body by giving each new commissioner two people to appoint — if any can be found.

Despite a very thoughtful letter to the editor last week, they did nothing to address imponderable language that seems to prevent membership by people who live within cities and guarantees that rural areas will dominate despite being less populous.

At least the commissioners are consistent. In gerrymandering districts a year ago, they not only guaranteed that two of them would not be thrown into the same district. They also ensured that rural interests would dominate by dividing Marion and Hillsboro and attaching isolated portions of each to non-contiguous districts where rural voters could dominate.

Of course, it’s not just the commissioners who are to blame for the overly rural, overly micro-managed approach they take to governing the county. We as constituents also play a part.

Rather than take our complaints or concerns directly to responsible officials, we often complain to our commissioner and expect him or her to be a full-throated advocate of a case we weren’t willing to make ourselves.

It’s still early, of course, and the commission could transform itself from Three Stooges plus Two into a Fab Five, focused on the big picture.

But first it must face a fundamental question of whether it wants the county to be almost a direct democracy, where no issue is too minor to bring up.

Commissioners conveniently revert to the alternative, a representative democracy mode, when they want to put through things they know voters probably wouldn’t approve — like bonds to build a Taj Mahal rest station for garbage.

If they’re willing to avoid hearing from constituents by using ill-advised loopholes like treating lease-purchase agreements as if they were bonds, which would require voter approval, they need to show the same courage in dealing with such things as testing standards for road rock.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Jan. 16, 2020

 

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