Action caused collateral damage
Leavenworth County commissioners returned from Labor Day weekend with blood in their eye. Determined to download some of their responsibilities to an appointed administocracy, they were prepared to destroy anything in their way. Sadly, the concept of self-government was in the way and was sacrificed to the commissioners' ambition.
It didn't have to turn out that way. Current Kansas law leaves room to establish an elected administrator rather than an appointed one. While I remain convinced that it would still be a bad idea, the elective option would at least have saved self-government by maintaining voter control. I have repeatedly pressed commissioners to follow this path, and they have roundly ignored me. I conclude with disappointment that they desired to reduce voter control and involvement.
It you think this conclusion unjustified, consider that voters have twice declined to OK an appointed administrator. Moreover, a separate attempt to petition the matter failed to gather sufficient signatures. The commissioners had set a third vote in August '08, but evidently expected another defeat and so resolved to force it upon an unwilling electorate.
To put this arrogant power play into context, consider that it has become routine for the commission to meet with Mid America Regional Council (MARC), Leavenworth County Port Authority (LCPA), Leavenworth County Development Corporation (LCDC), and other boards and committees. When was the last time you voted for representatives on any of these? Never; and those regular meetings are occasions for influencing the commission on policy, influence properly wielded only by voters generally rather than unelected special interest organizations however well-intentioned.
In this climate the commissioners opt to shove voters even further out of the room by hiring an administrator to point the way and hold commissioners' hand as they make policy. Other than during a campaign for your vote, when were you last asked for your opinion on a matter under consideration?
The ironic crown is placed on this quintessentially anti-republican action by the circumstance that the commissioners are, every one, putative Republicans.
What do you think: might we find commissioners who represent citizens in general?
-- Al Stevens is a Leavenworth resident and "observer" of the Leavenworth County Commission.
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