The Cleveland Plain Dealer isn’t letting this non-controversy about the Democrats on County Council caucusing to discuss virtually meaningless elections within the County County go.  Now columnist Gloria Millner is declaring that these candidates’ lied about their devotion to “transparency” in their questionairres.  To prove(?) her point, she republished them.

I don’t think they said what she thinks they said:

Julian Rogers

What would be the first thing you would do upon taking office?

Work to establish a strong working relationship with the other members of council.

Isn’t that exactly what they did by caucusing?  Nothing else in Rogers’ answers seem to suggest that his participation violated any promise to the PD as Millner claims.

Dale Miller

What would be the first thing you would do upon taking office?

I would establish a good, cooperative relationship with the County Executive and each of my 10 colleagues on county council, regardless of political party or beliefs. We need to work together to get Cuyahoga County out of the mess that it’s in and can’t have old style political bickering.

Caucusing eliminates public bickering and allows politicians to work out their differences in a way that lets them all save face.  Again, nothing in Miller’s answers explicitly show that he “broke” any promise to the PD or its readers.

Sunny Simon

What would be the first thing you would do upon taking office?

Begin working with the other council members to establish functional committees and rules, enabling the new council and executive to begin governing.

Simon, at least, later talks about open meetings and web casting council meetings.  But again, I don’t know if that inherently means there’d be no caucusing for administrative tasks like settling on a slate for President and Vice-President of Council, before doing the election in a public and transparent way, and she talked about doing so only once there was a council.

Right now, there is no County Council, nor was there a) an agreement by the council-elect to do a meeting in public, or b) space for them to do so.  Unlike the situation with Kasich, there’s no question that public meeting law DOESN’T apply here.  What the PD is really upset over seems to be nothing more than the Democrats on the commission organizing to have some sort of partisan discipline in their ranks.  What did they expect the Democrats to do when they realized they had 8 of the 11 seats on the Council?  Commit to a free-for-all?  Do they really believe the Republicans wouldn’t have done the same?

This isn’t like meeting to decide on no-bid contracts or anything close to that.  Just who was getting a largely ceremonial title to avoid a nasty public fight.

I don’t know what the Plain Dealer expected.  They essentially took a system that in theory called for three co-equal county “executives” (“commissioners”) but in reality operated as if one had control over the others (DiMora) and institutionalized that reality into the system by creating a massive powerful County Executive and then 11 politicians who have nothing to do but fight over figurehead titles like County Council President and Vice-President.  Oh, and you kept it a partisan election.

And the very people who are tsk-tsking the Council Democrats in some misguided view that they are the county’s modern equivalent of the Founding Fathers do so despite the monstrosity they created was entirely created behind close doors, by people who the public never elected to form a new county government, and clearly acted in their own self-interest (Bill Mason, the county prosecutor, was heavily involved as was much of his office and allies.  And for reasons they’ve yet to adequately explained, he was one of the few county offices spared from being axed under the new system he created.)  [UPDATE: Anastasia over at Ohio Daily Blog had already said essentially the same thing about the PD’s hypocrisy.]

They held primaries in districts drawn that ensured that the primaries would almost certainly guarantee the winner of the general election and held them at a time that nobody ever expects to vote, thus guaranteeing that only those with the right kind of political machine behind them were likely to win.

And they’re stunned that politics broke out in their creation?

The hypocrisy of the Plain Dealer and the “founders” of this county reform effort is galling.

After all, let’s remember that the Plain Dealer doesn’t hold its endorsement meetings and deliberation up to the public, either.   Physician, heal thy self.

  • Anastasjoy

    ” What did they expect the Democrats to do when they realized they had 8 of the 11 seats on the Council? Commit to a free-for-all? ” That is exactly what they wanted, in the hopes that someone the Republicans could have made enough secret phone calls (which the PD would never call THEM on) to somehow finagle at REPUBLICAN in charge of county council. Make sure Democrats are divided and in the dark about what their colleagues are thinking while the Republicans line up a couple of Democratic votes. The PD is in a grand sulk because they ultimately didn’t get what they wanted out of county government reform which, as you pointed out, was based on a charter entirely written in secrecy. I just complained to the ACLU about this after getting their hysterical fit of a press release about this little meeting. I asked them if they would please apply their resources to finding out the who, when, where and how of the creation of the charter. This is a question that has apparently never interested the PD. I was especially insulted by their editorial insisting that Ellen and Dale are now too tainted to be president. This is the ultimate desperate stab at manipulation of the county council. It’s a complete joke, just like the paper that wrote it. The more unglued they get, the more they expose their true mission here, and it’s not “transparent” government.

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  • Mary Jo

    Except you did not quote the entire answers of the candidates, did you, Oh Brian, the most Modern of Esquires Extraordinaire? They did commit to transparency later in their answers. Seems you left out a few bits and pieces. Not so fair and balanced for a Pluderbund piece, now is it?

  • Anonymous

    Dear Tim’s friend-

    Actually, I DID mention whether they later talked about transparency later in their answers. See, Simon for an example. What I actually said, though, was to the extent they talked about transparency, they talked about it in the context that doesn’t necessary mean they wouldn’t caucus. You can’t just do a word search for “transparency” and then proclaim any council member who uttered this word broke their pledge.

    Does saying you believe in transparency mean that you’ll oppose the council ever going into executive session, even though Ohio law permits it? I don’t think so, but the Plain Dealer’s criticisms (in order to be consistent) would require such an absurd positioning.

    I’m pointing out that Milner exaggerates exactly what these council members said as candidates and unfairly presents it in a way that says they promised not to caucus when they’re actual comments are more nuanced than that.

    But as I criticized Millner, I presented what she said accurately and gave the reader ready access to her article so the reader could make their own determination. As your own comment demonstrated. So, yes, that is fair and balanced.

  • Mary Jo

    Oh Most Modern of Exceptional Esquireness,
    The hypocrisy of your post is almost, well, quite galling. Your quotes left out the phrases most germane to the discussion.

    Julian Rogers: “The government should operate in a completely transparent and open manner. ”
    Dale Miller: “We also need strong hiring rules to prevent cronyism and get the most qualified workers; strong ethics rules to prevent conflicts of influence; limitations on campaign contributions to prevent excessive influence; and open and transparent government that people can believe in. ”
    Sunny Simon: “Introduce a comprehensive ethics policy and training session for county employees. Establish transparency policies and standards to include web cam coverage of council meetings and open meeting practices. ”

    Yes , you do indeed paraphrase Simon. So, actually a truly modern esquire would say, “see Simon for the only example.”
    Quite honestly I do think they have the right to caucus. I just wish good old plunderpund could report both sides of story, you know.

  • Anonymous

    We did Tim’s friend. I reported both Millner’s side and my differing view. Again, as evidence by the fact that you easily could see what Millner said because I included a link to it in the post.

    Again, I pointed out that much of what they said could be interpreted that their discussions about transparency was more nuianced to the point that caucuses wasn’t necessarily as clear of a violation of their promise as Millner claimed.

    Nothing you’ve said has dealt with that. The fact of the matter is that you don’t even disagree with me that Millner is wrong to be this hypercritical and that allowing them to caucus doesn’t necessarily mean that the council lacks transparency, you’re pushing back on a story you agree with for no other reason than a personal vendetta.

    Is a caucus the “government”? No, so, again, what Rogers and Miller said and his participation in a caucus isn’t inherently contradictory. That’s been my point. You quoting the same language back doesn’t change my interpretation of that language.

  • Mary Jo

    Oh most Modern of Esquires (or is it most Esquirely of Moderns?),
    Who is this royal WE of which ye speak?
    Its just that you have made your arguments much weaker by not presenting the full quotes from Millner’s article. You quoted what supported your opinion and left the rest out. Linking to Milner just somehow isn’t quite the same, not when Plunderbund (or is it Modernesquirebund now?), aspires to such greatness. Perhaps if your weness had suggested we read Milner to get the quotes in their entirety one would feel more at ease. You are correct, my concern is not about caucusing, it is about how Plunderbund is looking at news from both sides now, you know, like the song.
    I could sign off as Modern Teacher, or Modern Tim’s Friend, I guess. But you can call me plain old Mary Jo.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Tim’s Friend-

    Thank you for admitting that your criticisms have nothing to do with this post but your desire to pursue a personal vendetta for Tim. I wouldn’t include a link unless I was encouraging people to read it for themselves and make their own decision.

    Thank you for also admitting that you agree with the point of this post, which is that Milner is making a mountain out of a molehill and that the act of caucusing is not, as she suggests, inherently a violation of a candidate’s pledge to transparency.

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