At Tuesday’s BOC meeting commissioner Main, in front of the camera for the umpteenth time, insists the selection committees empaneled to pick Cam Parry and Fred Messerle were composed of a varied and diverse group of people spanning all political parties and formed to give the “public a chance to participate” in this critical decision. The results belie Mains claims of diversity, the BOC is now comprised of three like-minded conservative ‘pro-business’ commissioners. In my opinion, the committees were formed to deflect criticism for the choices away from the commission.

Regarding the selection of Cam Parry I know from a phone conversation with Main before the decision that he was angling for Parry all along and of the top five picked for the final interview process I admit to being supportive of Parry within the limited choices available. Parry probably would not have been in my top five list, or at least not in the top four, and I admit that I have become more and more disillusioned with all three commissioners and deeply disturbed by the rationale they use to justify their decisions.

The board took some criticism from the audience regarding their use of advisory committees. Committees have been formed to evaluate forestry, the road department, government structure in terms of reorganization, i.e home rule, as well as overall efficiency. Parry, who began his term by suggesting weekly informal coffee meetings with the public, defended the committee process as a way to involve the public in their own governance. Unfortunately, I have to strongly disagree. The very fact that the board gets to approve the official membership of these committees is in and of itself exclusionary and divisive. By far, the very best way to include the public, if that is truly the aim, is to hold a series of public hearings in different locations of the county and at times the working citizen can actually attend.

Governance by advisory committee allows a handful of unelected individuals appointed by the commission to impact the daily lives of 64,000 fellow citizens who may be too busy working during the day to keep up with what is going on. Credit should be given to Main for raising questions during a committee workshop meeting held last Monday of why do we need a ‘governance’ committee or an ‘efficiency committee’. “These department heads know what they’re doing”, he said. Nevertheless, Parry easily convinces Main the structural committee is critically important by using a technique common in politicians but that I find both frustrating and disingenuous.

Clearly, Parry has already convinced Main that the administration of county services is really a $100 million a year “business” rather than a government funded by taxpayer dollars. Working from that premise Parry then explains that any business must have a strategy thereby inferring the county does not, in fact, strategize every year during formal budget hearings or during every BOC meeting, and then makes a declarative statement inferring the county has not progressed since the 1950’s.

“We can’t keep operating in the fifties”, said Parry. There it is, he just states it as if it is fact and offers no examples of what he is talking about nor, assuming there are any valid examples, does he explain why, if true, these fifties artifacts may still be in place. Maybe, just maybe, if there are still some old ways of doing things it is simply because, gasp!, they work well.

Parry simply makes a vague yet declarative statement, wraps it in the folds of ‘running the county like a business’ and sells Main on a concept originally promoted by Fred Messerle. Done deal. Personally, I never heard any clear argument in Parry’s explanation to support the formation of these committees and I specifically never heard what the presumed ultimate goal might be but Main is satisfied something is broken and that forming small advisory committees is the way to fix it.

Messerle is barely able to form a coherent sentence without pausing every few words to interject an “uh” or an “um” and by the time he has finished whatever he means to say, again, like Parry, there is little substance. Like Parry, he is clear that something is wrong but falls short of saying it has anything to do with inadequate revenue and falls back on, “we have to determine what level of service we can afford to offer.”

Later, I hope to have a video clip up of the BOC regular meeting to augment this post.