Long meetings tough on Voting Joe
As the little hand inches its way toward midnight, one after another person in the audience edges toward the door, hoping not to disturb the county commissioners’ meeting. But Voting Joe of Depauw is in no mood to give up.
‘I’ve lived in this county for 20 years,’ he says. ‘People keep moving in; there’s more than 40 families now living on my street. Back and forth, they’re stirring up more dust than my family can live with; the kids can’t even play outside on a nice day. And despite all that loot from Caesars, nothing’s been done.
‘I know I’ve worked all day, I’m tired, and, I know I have to punch in tomorrow morning at 7:30,’ he said, sighing. ‘But I owe it to myself and my family to try to get these guys to pave that darn road. I just can’t leave. This is far too important!’
And so he waited, and was pleasantly surprised to hear his road’s name on the paving list this summer. ‘Thank you so much,’ he said, tipping his Cincinnati Reds baseball cap and heading for the door.
He was feeling good, until he had to get up the next morning. He was too tired to be of much help at work. And that afternoon, guess what happened.
He found out that the commissioners were unaware that his road project had been scratched. The county engineer was fast asleep at his desk in the next room, so he wasn’t aware the subject had come up. Otherwise, he would have told them a bridge on that road was about to buckle so it had to be repaired as a safety measure before any other improvements were made on that stretch of gravel. A perfectly good reason, but under the circumstances it didn’t work with Voting Joe. He was just too disheartened. Actually, Voting Joe was downright angry.
While this is not a true story, it’s not all that farfetched.
The commissioners’ evening meetings are beginning to run later and later, lasting for hours. In the ‘old’ days, that board could wrap things up fairly easily and thus earlier. Commissioners might say something like, ‘We really would like to help you, Voting Joe, but we don’t have any money. And we don’t get any money from your property taxes for roads. We get a small percent of the gasoline taxes, and the state decides how much.’
By now, everyone in Harrison County should know there’s money available, lots of money, mostly because of Caesars’ gaming taxes. And we know of no one so far who has been reluctant to ask for part of it. Juggling all those requests requires time for study and discussion before decisions are reached.
That’s one reason for the marathon session on Monday, June 16. The commissioners didn’t get things wrapped up until after 2:05 a.m., June 17. A change clearly must occur. The commissioners must be at their best when important decisions are made, for our sake and sometimes for the sake of future generations.
Here are three suggestions that might shorten long meetings:
1) The commissioners could add a third meeting or even a fourth to help spread the workload;
2) The commissioners could hire a county manager or planner to crunch the numbers, investigate requests, listen to complaints, and serve as a liaison between county officials and the Voting Joes;
3) The commissioners could hear requests for rivervote, er, um, riverboat money quarterly at a special meeting set up for that purpose.
4) They could restrict the amount of time needed to make presentations.
None of the plans would be perfect, for sure, but under No. 2, a breakdown in communication could occur, because stories inevitably change each time they are told. Under No. 3, the three-month wait could be way too long for the help to come that’s needed.
Voting Joe said he’d prefer No. 1.