City County cooperation lives on, in private.
With few exceptions, elected officials are required to conduct all public business in public. An open government is a healthy government. Openness helps prevent unscrupulous officials scheming in private to influence government actions. That is why it is illegal for elected officials to make deals secretly. That is why we have open meetings laws. Many officials complain it stifles efficient government to say everything in public. But government is supposed to function for the people.
A very important agreement has already been voted on by the Cleveland City Council, and by the time you read this will probably have been ratified by the Bradley County Commission. This agreement does not contain one important piece of legislation but four, all grouped together, labeled a global settlement.
Each piece of legislation is potentially controversial and far reaching for city and county taxpayers but being bunched together stand a far better chance of being ratified by both legislative bodies. This is where the scheming in private by elected officials comes in. Cleveland City Council member Richard Banks, who is by profession an attorney, figured the four individual motions were unpopular and had little chance of gaining either the City Council or the County Commission nod of approval, so he conceived a plan to lump the legislation under one motion knowing that some parts of the whole would appeal to a majority of votes. As of this writing, he was proved right with the majority of the city council voting affirmative, but how to get the same motion to the County Commission without appealing to them in public was his dilemma. For obvious reasons the exact chain of events is sketchy because it was done in secret, but it appears a call was made by Banks to County Commissioner Jeff Yarber, who suggested Banks fax the proposal to commission assistant Amy Moore. Somehow County Commissioner Lisa Stanbery, who is running against County Mayor D. Gary Davis, for his job at the next election, managed to obtain a copy of Banks' motion for presentation to the commission to vote on.
What were the four pieces of legislation that had everyone in a twist?
1: To vote on the unpopular merger of the county volunteer fire department with the city paid fire department.
2: To vote on supplying a public sewer line to the new county elementary school planned for Minnis Road as a carrot to get item one approved.
3: To vote on the way the half percent sales tax increase would be divided between city and county. Another carrot.
4: To vote to form a task force to combine the city and county planning departments. Yet another carrot.
Both Banks and Stanbery refused to separate their motions so each item could be voted on separately. This in itself appears to prove collusion between elected officials to influence the outcome of a vote on some very controversial legislation. Whether it violated the open meetings law is difficult to say, but it did violate the spirit of open government and does prove Banks and Stanbery are sneaky and can't be trusted to conduct business openly. Is it in the best interest for city and county taxpayers to have these important measures lumped together? I don't think so. They were combined for political reasons, to get the fire merger passed, not because they were good for the community. Lisa Stanbery is a County commissioner but is a city supporter. Having people like Stanbery on the Bradley County Commission is why the City of Cleveland runs roughshod over the county. Genuine county commissioners often lose votes to these rogue city implants. Taxpayers may get duped by this duo but at least they will know who they are.
That's what I think. What do you think?