18
February
2013

Reform County Government — Eliminate the Executive

It was a grand experiment, but adding the layer of County Government that is least connected to the people has turned out to be a dismal failure. It’s time to get back to our roots and eliminate the position of County Executive.

In theory it should have worked out well. In reality it has resulted in contention, dishonesty and a scramble to assess blame rather than accepting personal responsibility.

Budgets fraught with phantom revenues and understated expenses have been sent to the board over the last three decades. The board has been forced to rewrite these budgets to reflect reality. Policies and ordinances have been sent to the board, stripped of critical information and insight with the demand that they be passed nearly sight-unseen. When problems happen it is the board, not the Executive, who has taken the heat.

Power struggles in politics are not uncommon, but adding the layer of County Executive has resulted in more of a fight for power than reasonable arguments over policy. Today County government is faced with a County Executive who cries that reform of the branch of government closest to the people must be reformed. That reform will allow him to concentrate his power.

Since when did concentrating power in the hands of one person become reform? Power mongering is not reform.

Even the elections for Executive have become a corrupted exercise in our democracy. To be elected you must be either wealthy enough to finance your own campaign or well connected enough to a political party that you can raise suitcases full of money from others. Neither option is in the interest of the public.

Optimally county government should be eliminated since legislatively it runs at the will of state government. State politicians overrule the actions of the county, pass along the costs of mandates, and pat themselves on the back for saving money that was never saved. Counties become scapegoats for lazy state politicians. Since politicians would rather diddle around the edges of real reform, county government is here to stay.

Now politicians are lining up to say the board needs to be reduced in size and only compensated with a part time salary. The vast diversity of talent and experiences that could be called upon to solve complex problems will evaporate. Qualified common people will not run for a position that will not even allow them to pay their household expenses. Less oversight and less accountability is not reform.

Still others claim that efficiency will come from reducing salaries. There’s just one problem with their claims — arithmetic. The County Board costs less than 1% of the budget. Eliminating oversight will cost more in missed efficiencies. Less eyes on the problem is not a solution unless you’re the one who wants to hide something.

There once was a time when smaller, local government was considered the best government. Those days are apparently over.

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