I know the dreaded ancillary players who dominate the local political conversation encourage the average voter to believe that getting anything done requires the careful navigation of an endless series of blood feuds. And if you’re outside the in-group, you can kiss you’re political ass goodbye.
But the truth is, county boards ain’t Congress. If those folks do engage in grandstanding (and most of them don’t), with rare exception, they let it go after the meeting and figure out how to get along. They know emotion can only get you so far and if you take everything personally, you’re psychological toast.
During the most contentious moments of former Chairman Karen McConnaughay’s administration, even she worked with board “enemies” like Drew Frasz to get things done for the better of the county as a whole.
But those kinds of things don’t get reported because getting along doesn’t make good copy.
In that very vein, instead of issuing a counterpunch, a number of county board members made the effort to reach out to Coroner Rob Russell and explain that going to the press first is always counterproductive. They also asked him for some sort of cost-benefit analysis as to how a new facility might actually be a benefit for county taxpayers in the long run.
And the Coroner responded to these eminently reasonable requests by emailing a poem to the entire board.
While I have to give Russell credit for finally taking a more subtle approach, realizing that only the board can help him, and acknowledging that those folks are regularly faced with “difficult decisions,” a poem on the merits of “last responders” wasn’t exactly what they were looking for.
First, I can’t remember a time when anyone has disparaged that office or the employees who gracefully deal with death on a daily basis.
And second, having successfully faced down the great recession, the County already has quite a bit to catch up on.
Our prosecutors continue to be woefully underpaid costing us quality people. Our three public safety unions, who graciously took the economic downturn hit, will be looking for a little more this round. All sorts of building maintenance has been put off. Have you seen the back of Building A during an average downpour?
Instead of providing the detailed analysis that really makes your case, to insinuate that your people are getting short shrift because last responders are an automatic afterthought will not produce the desired result.
So now, board members once sympathetic to the previous administration’s blatant disrespect of former Coroner Chuck West, suddenly aren’t so supportive anymore. Not only are they lamenting Russell’s incessant nagging, but one mentioned how tired they’re getting of “all the Coroner’s games.”
And once you’ve worn out that political welcome, not only will the Democrats attempt to field a strong candidate, but the Republicans are starting to consider all the possible alternatives as well.
By refusing to avail himself of so many people who truly want to help, Russell has gone from simply not getting a new building, to likely being bounced after just one term. And when you consider some of the fine folks on this County Board, that’s a lot harder to accomplish than you might think.