Reduce the Size of the Legislature? – Day 68 of the Jackson County Ethics Crisis

I was discussing the Jackson County Ethics Blackout with a man who really knows the County, and he came up with a thought that hadn’t even crossed my mind. “One of the problems,” he pointed out, “is that we don’t have enough work to keep 9 legislators busy, so they have too much time on their hands, and they bump into each other. If we really want an effective legislature, we should reduce it to 7 legislators.”

My friend is correct.

Take a look, for example, at the committee structure. It’s a classic of make-work and overlap:

Anti-Drug
Dan Tarwater, Chairperson
James D. Tindall
Henry C. Rizzo

Budget
Henry C. Rizzo, Chairperson
Bob Spence
Dan Tarwater
James D. Tindall

Finance & Audit
Dennis Waits, Chairperson
Bob Spence
Dan Tarwater

Health & Environment
James D. Tindall,
Chairperson
Greg Grounds
Dennis Waits

Inter-Governmental Affairs

James D. Tindall, Chairperson
Henry C. Rizzo
Bob Spence

Justice & Law Enforcement
Theresa Garza Ruiz,
Chairperson
Greg Grounds
James D. Tindall

Land Use
Fred Arbanas, Chairperson
Bob Spence
Theresa Garza Ruiz

Public Works
Bob Spence, Chairperson
Greg Grounds
Theresa Garza Ruiz

Rules
Greg Grounds, Chairperson
Henry C. Rizzo
Dan Tarwater

(There’s enough material in this bizarre set-up to keep me writing for another month. Notice that Tindall and Rizzo, both with criminal records for their financial misdeeds, show up on both the Anti-Drug (COMBAT funds) and Budget Committees?)

Do we really need all nine of those committees, or do they exist solely to give each legislator an opportunity to chair a committee? Really, couldn’t the work of the “Anti-Drug” Committee be handled by the Budget Committee and the Justice and Law Enforcement Committee, with the added benefit that we would not have $20 million tax dollars passing through the hands of a committee where the majority has a rap sheet? Similarly, couldn’t the Land Use and Public Works Committee be combined into one entity, especially since Theresa Garza Ruiz and Bob Spence are the majority on both?

Do we even need a Health and Environment Committee? Or Intergovernmental Affairs? Shouldn’t everyone be paying attention to those issues?

There’s an old phrase that “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”, and I think it applies to the Jackson County legislature. We have too many committees doing too little work, and we have both of our big money committees including Tindall and Rizzo.

Does anybody in Jackson County think that this unwieldy and strangely staffed committee structure is a good idea?

Even more to the point, does anybody think that we should trust these people to handle our money when they are adamant about avoiding local ethics oversight?

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