2018-10-10 / Community View

VIEW POINT

If you think you can do better than I, go for it?

I’ve worked in community journalism most of my adult life. I’ve been to thousands of meetings and hearings and seminars.

I’ve been to countless school board meetings, township boards, village councils, library boards, city commissions, utility authorities and chamber of commerce luncheons sitting on all manner of uncomfortable chairs. In short, at one time or another I’ve been to just about every sort of meeting they don’t make movies about.

Somewhere along the line, I’m not quite sure when anymore, but I’m sure it was early on in my career, some old retiree leaned over from the chair behind me and hissed in my ear, “They’re all on the take.”

Over the years I’ve heard that from multiple people, in multiple forms in multiple jurisdictions. But in all that time, I can count the number of crooks I’ve encountered, including the ones I suspected, but couldn’t prove, without taking off my shoes and socks.

The older I get, the more I’ve come to believe that the people who say that to me, without the first fact to back it up, are saying more about their own character than anything else.

I think what they’re really saying is that if it was them sitting up in that chair, they could be bought and for a whole lot less than what you’d expect.

By in large over the years, I’ve found that most small community government isn’t so much corrupt as incompetent, or more charitably out of their depth.

There are a bunch of things I’m fairly good at. Over the years I’ve put together a modest collection of awards for my writing and photography and I can whip up a pretty serviceable shrimp scampi. But there are things you just don’t want me doing — brain surgery among them.

That said, Jane’s a wonderful person, but the main reason she’s on the village council is she knocked on everyone’s door and asked them to vote for her. Joe’s on the county commission because he’s got the same last name as a well-respected political figure in the area and most folks didn’t realize he just moved here from New Jersey.

Both have priced Bush and Sauder furniture for their businesses. But tell them $50 million for a public building and they just don’t grasp it. Once the consultant gets past 50, it might as well be dog whistles — it just doesn’t register.

Most folks don’t realize if you unraveled all of Lapeer County’s roads into one, it would be like driving from here to Perry, Ga. on I-75 and take about 13 hours and change to drive them, provided they were all good enough to do 75 mph on.

Unlike an engineer or a truck driver, you don’t have to pass any kind of competency test. You just have to be likable enough, which means I never have to worry about getting elected.

But if you can do a better job than the person in office, go for it. Just don’t call him a crook unless you’ve got the goods and show me how you can do better.

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