Posted on

Putting the service back in public service

A trip to attend a meeting of the Harrison County Commissioners begins, of course, with parking one’s automobile. This could be achieved in a couple of ways.
One may seek out an empty space, easily found prior to most evening or weekend meetings. Or those public employees with access to one of the reserved spaces at the Harrison County Archives Building may simply drive to and into those spaces. That is even less difficult.
Once at the meeting, one may have a need to speak. This could be achieved in a couple of ways.
One, you could be placed on the agenda and wait until the prescribed time. Or county employees and public servants in various capacities may simply go first in order that they may leave first.
The rest of us who live under the guidance of for-the-people government will patiently wait our turn.
Very patiently.
Despite holding regularly-scheduled meetings twice each month, commissioners’ meetings are long. Sometimes extremely long.
The chair always seems in good spirits, though. And he always has something to contribute to the discussion, and whatnot.
The meetings frequently are capped with a disheveled diatribe by a never was. That stumbling, rambling oration never yields any actionable information of any sort, but often spoons out an acrid dose of racism.
The speaker, Warren Haun, found himself on the other side of the podium decades ago. In 1978, while Haun served as chairman of the plan commission, the late Bruce Walker wrote:
‘Haun doesn’t like the public to come to public meetings. He apparently feels the public’s business is none of the public’s business.’
Unfortunately, Haun seems to have changed his mind.
I’m pleased that our commissioners have thus far avoided scandal, seem to keep an open mind, are generally positive and, while I’m at it, appear to practice good personal care habits.
There seems to be one fundamental misunderstanding, though. And this is revealed largely in the decisions of the chair.
Government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, and the state and its political subdivisions exist only to aid in the conduct of the business of the citizens of the state.
Therefore, public employees and officeholders might be better served by an ‘after you’ than with an ‘after us.’
County commissioners’ meetings in their current form are not good for business. They have become a daunting prospect to those who must routinely or occasionally attend them.
Reasonable individuals are accepting of the need for reserved spaces for those always on the go. They have no quarrel with letting someone make a two-minute presentation before hurrying to his or her daughter’s play. And we all want someone listening to what we say, so that’s understandable, too.
But not by virtue of someone’s office.