Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Consolidation Clowning

Like almost everyone else in Escambia County, we haven't paid sufficient attention to the proposed city-county consolidation plan (available in full text here). Partly this is because, as with the new Pensacola City Charter, it looks to us like a different circus with the same clowns.

Partly, too, we confess we have absolutely no faith that local pols enjoying their perch and perqs ever could be convinced to support a significant change in the fundamentally dysfunctional system(s) of local government around here. The people who profit from the status quo will do whatever it takes to shove the idea of meaningful systemic change down a deep rat-hole.

Our indifference is not matched elsewhere. A number of people we respect, and a few we don't, have been vigorously arguing over the proposed consolidation referendum.

The News Journal editorial board says, "Give Us Our Vote."
The right to vote on consolidation was halted Monday by a lethal combination of parliamentary procedure, an absent legislator, a public meeting where the public rarely got to speak and a committee chairman who had his feelings hurt because some people thought the fix was in.

At stake here is not the question of consolidated government. At stake is the right to allow Escambia citizens to follow through, with their votes up or down, on the work of the consolidation committee.
Rick Outzen at the Independent News claims the daily newspaper "has it backwards." The struggle over government consolidation, he writes --
has not become about the details of the plan. Instead, the fight has been over whether the public should vote on the plan that no one other than the study commission got to see before it was set in stone and sent to our lawmakers.
William Reynolds, from the beautiful, rolling hills of north Escambia County, argues that Judge Ken Bell's consolidation committee -- admittedly an all-volunteer group working on a shoe-string and armed mainly with an e-mail account -- violated "the spirit of the legislative mandate" and largely ignored everyone "north of Ten Mile Road." he adds --
The entire process was rushed faster than a kid’s science project the day before it was due. Business appears to have been conducted behind through private emails.
The immediate issue, Reynolds writes, "is not about your support for or against consolidation."
Regardless of your viewpoint or ours about consolidation, today’s issue is about a plan being shoved down the throats of 300,000 by 30 people that are not representative of our population. Even consolidation supporters are against the methodology used to create the plan.
Derek Cosson's Progressive Pensacola has been spitting mad about the whole thing for some time. Among the issues he's headlined --
  • "Big Money Pro-Consolidation Campaign Coming"
  • "Pro-consolidation Presentation Misleading, Dishonest"
  • Judge Bell "Collaborated" with advocates of consolidation to raise funds for his committee
  • News Journal Editorials supporting consolidation have been "misleading, unabalnced."
  • And so on.
On the other hand, the reliably frivolous Mark O'Brien seems to agree with the PNJ editorial board even as he holds his nose. His major point being, apparently --
Escambia County is a lot like Iraq. Just as Iraq has Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, we have county people, city people and beach people, and seldom do they mesh.
There's just no accounting for the mind of an advertising man.

Pistol-Packin' Durrell Peaden, who deliberately absented himself from the local legislative delegation meeting to consider consolidation, says "there is no use." He "knew" government consolidation would never be endorsed by the incumbent legislators.

That's doubtless because the whole idea was still-born the day the state legislature mandated a study commission and refused to fund it. The Consolidation Circus was doomed from the start by the same legislators who made sure it had no resources to conduct thorough research, broadly solicit local input, engage experts to draft a modern consolidation plan, and undertake a meaningful, county-wide informational campaign.

1 comment:

potenta said...

good article...i realy like it...go on with this job.:)