Do we want good people or do we just want to punish the ones we hate?
by Frank Cagle
There has been a lot of sound and fury during the past two weeks as people with a straight face have been advocating things that are unlawful, impractical, and ill-advisedâ" primarily a special election to fill 12 empty posts in county government.
There is understandable anger about the events of the past 10 months, but the chase for the impossible dream of a special election is delaying filling the posts and is leaving county Commission districts without full representationâ"or with no representation at all.
There are conflicting goals at work but here are some of them:
â" Playing to the anger and frustration of the voters calling for an election keeps the animus toward County Commission boiling. If it goes on long enough it goes into the primary election season, hurting the candidacies of Commissioners who were appointed, removed, and may be appointed again.
â" County Mayor Mike Ragsdaleâ’s call for an election has kept the focus on Commission and has prevented a return to the other storyline in county government: a series of audits about financial improprieties in his office.
â" Making the issue a failed effort to have an election will only create more outrage when Commission does what the law requires them to do: appoint people to these positions. The more the prospect of an election is dangled in front of the populace the greater the anger when it doesnâ’t happen and appointments are made.
â" It is understandable that Commission nemeses Herb Moncier and Ragsdale want to keep Commission back on its collective heels. But in the long run, is this wise and does it give us a satisfactory outcome?
â" There are scores of people who have picked up petitions to run for office next year and the primary is barely over three months awayâ"Feb. 5. It is extremely difficult for these people to plan campaigns, raise funds and attract public interest to their cause. They donâ’t even know who they are running against.
â" We have an election process for the coming year. Yes, it is regrettable that appointed people will serve until after the general election next August. But the time does allow the voters to make some choices and allow challengers to make a case. Last year the election was a farce, coming as it did in the middle of court decisions. People were elected to office then held to be term limited. The last thing we need now is a snap election, outside the normal process, surrounded by court decisions, appointments, and confusion.
â" Are we concerned about electing good people to lead county government going forward or are we more concerned about punishing people we donâ’t like?
â" Knox County has some real challenges in the coming year. There are legitimate concernsâ"
the no-new-taxes balanced budget last year was done with smoke and mirrors and taxpayers may be in
for a rude awakening before this fiscal year is complete, and Commission has been unable to focus on storm water, development and schools because all the attention has been focused on political in-fighting.
â" The Commission, shellshocked as it is, needs to do what it has to do: fill the posts that are vacant. Then let the political process go forward. Challengers will know whose picture to put on wanted posters. Campaigns can be planned. People can work for incumbents or work to throw the incumbents out. Itâ’s the way politics is supposed to work.
â" We need to stop telling Knox County voters that legislators from the other 94 counties in Tennessee will meet to solve a purely local mess of our own making. Itâ’s not going to happen and it is a disservice to the public to keep suggesting it will. Our legislative delegation has been trying to keep the peace and follow the will of the people. But they know it is a lost cause and instead of leaving the door open to a legislative solution they need to slam itâ"hard.
â" Appoint people to the offices and let the election season begin. May the best man or woman win. Itâ’s the only way for the voters to win.
Frank Cagle is a political analyst . You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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