Too Much Cooperation? – Day 54 of the Jackson County Ethics Crisis

Cooperation is generally a good thing, but it has its limits. In the legislative world, too much agreement is a red flag that something is amiss. If a roomful of elected officials sworn to represent their constituents don’t ever disagree, they are either not facing genuine issues or not having the courage to dissent.

Over the first 4 meetings of the 2009 Jackson County Legislature, Bob Spence is the only legislator to vote “no” on anything. No other legislator has broken from the herd even once. (To be completely fair, as always, I should point out that Fred Arbanas abstained from a vote to congratulate him on his birthday, and Scott Burnett abstained from the vote electing him Chair. So at least two legislators have a vocabulary that exceeds “aye”. It’s also worth noting that Henry Rizzo didn’t abstain from the vote electing him Vice Chair, secure in his knowledge that ethics rules don’t apply to the Jackson County legislature.)

During that time, the Legislature has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, and changed the law in a fashion that will almost certainly cause children to be harmed in Jackson County, as well as property damage.

More tellingly, nobody has dared introduce an ordinance reversing the Legislature’s anti-ethical exemption of itself from the Jackson County Ethics Code. I had correspondence with one legislator who agrees with me that the exemption should be reversed, but he won’t introduce such a measure unless he knows it will pass. Sadly, going on record supporting ethics is less important than avoiding the wrath of the legislative leadership.

Folks, a good legislature is marked by spirited debate and respectful differences. A bad legislature is marked by fearful cooperation and gutless orthodoxy. A legislature that agrees on everything is not doing its job.

The Jackson County legislature is not doing its job.

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