For connoisseurs of political posturing, there was no better place to be than the June 8 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.
Item 6 on the agenda, titled “Comments by Elected Officials” drew a crowd of eager elected officials. One by one they took their turn at the mike, ready to bloviate, pontificate and listen to the pleasant drone of their own voices. Commissioners Amy Lathen, Sallie Clark and Wayne Williams each had their moment in the sun, as did Sheriff Terry Maketa, who entertained those in attendance with an illustrated account of the previous weekend’s simulated building collapse.
In their comments, the three commissioners didn’t ignore their fundamental duty as Republican elected officials: slam Democrats! Oh, the incompetence of the federal government! Oh, the crushing burden of unfunded mandates! Oh, the unfeeling incompetence of the devil – spawned donksters at the State Capitol! Alas for us in El Paso County!
But, as Public Trustee Tom Mowle and State Rep. Michael Merrifield showed us, Democrats know how to posture too.
Commenting on the County’s proposed $49.5 million deal to purchase much of the former Intel complex, the two asked that the commission to delay voting on the deal to allow more public input.
Keeping an absolutely straight face, Merrifield said that he was making this request only to help the Republican commissioners build public trust and confidence. Unmentioned was the fact that Mr. Merrifield, who is term-limited in the legislature, is now running for the county commission. Clearly, his interests are best served if incumbent Republicans manage to diminish voter trust and confidence – so his request seemed disingenuous.
The commissioners snorted, whinnied, and laid their ears back like angry horses determined to throw their riders. What insolence! What a pack of lies!
Commission Chair Dennis Hisey, apparently lost in thought, allowed this unseemly donnybrook to continue for some time, until Jim Bensberg said, “We’ve perhaps heard enough of the he said/she said stuff,” and suggested that the commission get down to business.
Commendably, that’s exactly what they did.
County Administrator Jeff Greene walked the commissioners through the financing package, which featured “Build America” bonds, a tool made available to local governments through a provision of the Obama administration’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, (“The Stimulus”). The canny Greene characterized BABs as a program originally proposed by the Reagan Administration!
Whatever, Jeff…in any case, the very commissioners who had opened the meeting blasting the feds had no problem accepting the federal interest subsidies that make BABs so attractive.
When it came down to the nitty-gritty, the commissioners left their partisan talking points at the door, and made a great deal for the county. They’re to be commended – and if they want to posture and bloviate, go for it!
It was quite a contrast to city council’s recent theater of the absurd.
As you may remember, Council formally opposed a bill that, if passed, might bring $42 million in emergency federal aid to the city. Council members huffed and puffed about fiscal responsibility and the federal deficit and refused to join other municipalities in support of the proposed legislation.
It’s too bad that the Obama administration has little taste for meaningless confrontation. Otherwise, should the bill pass, it’d be fun to watch council squirm if the feds politely asked them whether they want the $42 million, or would they prefer that the government just divide money up among other jurisdictions?
Actually, they could go ahead and posture. Jeff Greene and the commissioners would quickly figure out a face-saving way to take the money and help our local economy.
That’s what you call doing your job – and I guess that’s why the commissioners get the big bucks.