I submitted this to the PD last Friday.? They have decided not to print it.? Which is funny, given that I’m the only candidate for either county council or county executive with any credibility on the issue, or who is actually talking about it.? Oh well….it gets printed here at Plunderbund!
Coup d?etats in the former soviet republics are not subtle.? They have, however, become more sophisticated.
The list of best practices includes giving the opposition just enough seats at the table for window dressing, every step of the way, packing legitimate committees of government with an overwhelming majority who will do what they please in the full light of day.
To add one extra veneer of legitimacy, authoritarian governments even invite the media and international observers into the room, a final flourish of ?transparency?.? I spent years of my career training local observation organizations in developing democracies abroad to record their observations carefully, to document what was brazenly being perpetrated on their democracy.
Since Issue 6 passed in November 2009, a transition process has been underway toward Cuyahoga County?s own new democratic government.? Who has been at the table to observe and document its work for the past 3 months?
Last week, transition advisory group co-chairs Martin Zanotti and Jim McCafferty publicly and vigorously defended their decision to keep major meetings of the transition process from being held in public or being covered by the media.? Only when the Ohio ACLU threatened to sue under Ohio open meetings law called Sunshine Laws, did county lawyers conclude that indeed, Ohio Sunshine Laws apply.? Zanotti and McCafferty reversed course, deciding that all Cuyahoga County transition meetings would now be public.
How was that decision made?? Why did it take 3 months?? Who made these decisions?? Why did it take a public outcry for the transition advisory group to consult their own county lawyers?? The voters of Cuyahoga County don?t know, because no one representing the public, or the media, or any opposition, has been in the room for that period.
It?s not just a failure of democracy.? Because we are lucky, and do not live in a former soviet republic, there will be real world consequences for this failure to comply with Ohio law.
Section 13.07 of the new charter creates the transition advisory group, saying it ?shall develop recommendations for the orderly and efficient transition? to the new charter.? That is the last and only mention in the new charter of this advisory group?s recommendations.
The charter has no provision for adoption of such recommendations by the new government ? either by the executive, the council, or some combination of the two.? The recommendations have no more standing as future policy than this op-ed piece, or any other suggestion offered by anyone.
For nearly a quarter of the time between the old government and the new one, three months, the transition advisory group?s governmentally sanctioned work was conducted in violation of Ohio law, by admission of the county?s own lawyers.? This fatally taints the advisory group?s work, jeopardizing anything that comes out of it.
If the new government adopts any of its recommendations, any action taken based on those recommendations is subject to litigation from the starting gate.
For example, say the advisory group recommends massive layoffs to trim county government, and despite having no procedure outlined in the charter to adopt that recommendation, somehow it is adopted by the new county executive.? How quickly do you think AFSCME, the labor union representing county employees, challenges those layoffs in court?
Issue 6 was sold as a solution to the pervasive back room dealing and resulting corruption that has paralyzed county government.?? The contrast to Issue 6?s promise, and its three-month-old reality, could not be more stark.
The good news is that Cuyahoga County voters are paying attention, and will have their say this fall.? The new charter?s flawed early implementation can be addressed at the ballot box, as it should be.