Johnson City Press Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Opinion

Huge commission’s games have cost county taxpayers

September 15th, 2013 12:00 am by Staff Report

Huge commission’s games have cost county taxpayers

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” That line from Shakespeare’s “Henry the Sixth” has been used to ridicule, castigate and bemoan (generally unfairly, we might add) practitioners of the law for several centuries now.
Lawyer jokes are a dime a dozen. It is interesting to note, however, most Americans don’t crack wise when it comes to finding a good lawyer in their times of need.
The sentiment uttered by Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare’s play is in regards to removing an obstacle. In this case it was lawyers who Dick feared might stand in the way of a revolution.
Many of us often joke of getting rid of professions and institutions that seem to stand in the way of our vested interests. We might speak of getting rid of laws and regulations that impede our plans, or we might talk of getting rid of the Federal Reserve.
Here in Washington County, there has been much talk over the years of reducing the number of members of the County Commission. Twenty-five commissioners seem to be too many, and that number has often presented an obstacle to making real progress on fiscal reforms.
Given what Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reported in Tuesday’s paper, we think reducing the number of county commissioners is not enough. Maybe it’s time to abolish the County Commission altogether.
Gray quoted Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge as saying the County Commission’s inaction on passing a budget (which was finally approved last week, two months after the start of the new fiscal year) had cost the county at least $250,000 in estimated savings on interest payments. By their dalliance on the budget and insistence on playing political games, some commissioners had frittered away precious tax dollars. That’s not acceptable.
Alas, abolishing the County Commission is an extreme measure and one that is unfeasible. It would likely take a change to the state Constitution. It would also be unwise to remove the representative voice of the people from county government.
There are some very competent and thoughtful commissioners on the board, but their voices are being drowned out by a majority held together by petty territorial politics. This is not how representative government is supposed to work.
This sad state of affairs is just one more reason to reduce the membership of the County Commission. We are now less than a year away from the next election for the commission. We urge every reader of this page to begin taking an interest in how your county government is working and hold those responsible for its failures accountable at the polls.
We might not be able to get rid of all county commissioners, but the voters do have an opportunity to seat commissioners who will put the best interests of the entire county before their own.

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