Saturday, October 25, 2014
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Opinion

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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Doubling down on power politics

Efficiency in government this is not.

 

Unless reason prevails, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners will double the number of monthly meetings, from two to four, and offer twice the platform time for long-winded bloviating, political posturing and rhetorical replowing of the same ground.
Acting out his frustration that he and Larry Young are stuck in a two-vote minority, County Commissioner Grady Hawkins announced last month that he would crash the biweekly closed meeting during which the chair, vice chair and the county manager plan the board agenda. After he and Young came out on the short end of a 3-2 vote for chair Monday night, Hawkins announced that henceforth he would be attending the agenda meetings. That means three commissioners will be present, which constitutes a majority, which constitutes an open meeting under state law.
Hawkins is right when he says that those meetings are now public and should be. No one will defend that point stronger than the Hendersonville Lightning. Things that are now discussed in private will be discussed in public. Hooray for the press and the public.
Yet we doubt that that was Mr. Hawkins' primary motivation.
This is about power. Hawkins and Young don't have the power. Hawkins and Young covet the power.
No one is thinking about the bigger consequence of this.
How does the county recruit younger people to run for the Board of Commissioners when they learn that they're now expected to meet once a week? Add the study of the backup material and travel to the Courthouse, and a meeting kills most of a day. Working people won't tolerate that.
How much more staff time must now be devoted to two extra meetings a month that will surely last longer and require more preparation than the agenda meetings did?
And on the subject of openness — and it's nigh impossible to get this sort of admission from us — this board currently has five members who are willing to take calls and answer questions when reporters or the public asks about upcoming issues — Hawkins and Young included. If the staff-chair agenda meetings involved nefarious back-channel maneuvering, we'd be less skeptical of Hawkins' motives and gladder to suffer the pain of long discussions about whether some matter should or should not be docketed next week.
After Hawkins promised to crash the party, Messer tossed the question back to County Manager Steve Wyatt and County Attorney Russ Burrell. They're supposed to figure out how the agenda meetings should go from closed to open. Here's hoping they come up with a way to streamline the extra meetings. We're not optimistic. This is a recipe for more spinning of wheels, not less, and more politics, not less.