Edgar Co., IL. (ECWd) –
“Public refusal to remain silent and its refusal to accept corruption is the first line of defense against it.”
Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, Former United States Attorney, Northern District of Illinois
I wonder if the approach of “Bury your head in the sand, never speak out, always report what they tell you” had ever crossed his mind? I doubt it. Fitzgerald points out, in his “Culture of Corruption” paper, that Apathy by the public – the “Culture of Acceptance” – as he stated, is the single most harmful affect of corruption. People see decades of corruption and simply accept it as the status quo. They assume government systems are broken and there is nothing they can do about it. So they simply accept it as normal, or worse, they get entrenched in corruption themselves since they see it as the only way to get ahead.
This article is in response to the Prairie Press editorial entitled “Demand public civility”, published on Aug 20, 2015.
How many times, and how many years must a person wait for a public official to consider what they are being informed of during public meetings? This month’s round of Edgar County board meetings were the continuation (not culmination) of a three year effort to convince them they need to follow the law regarding their compensation. How many polite conversations, how many meetings asking them to fix it, and how many public comment sessions with all of them simply ignoring the speaker does a person need to sit thru before “civility” gets chucked right out the window?
A county board member using the Sheriff’s Department as his own private security intimidation force, blaming his insecurities on other people, and threatening to arrest a person who said something he didn’t like, adds fuel to any perceived incivility arising out of this month’s meetings. It is the board member himself that needs to practice civility and genuine courtesy towards the public.
An example of how public officials should act towards the public occurred during a Paris City Council public hearing this week. Citizens talked, there was discussion, the city council projected the appearance of genuine concern for the views of those commenting, and their attitude projected onto the public. I attended that hearing, as did County Board member Farnham, and I left with the feeling that the city council would genuinely take every view into consideration prior to adopting their Ordinance.
That is what I believe most people want: fair, genuine representation with no back-room secret deals that drag on for years, and transparency and accountability to the law.
Both the PP and the Rep. Party leader for Edgar County expressed the thoughts that it has been hard to keep board members, or, with all this negativity it is hard to find “good” people to run for office. My suggestion is to look back at the past several elections and you will find more people than ever running for office. Edgar County now actually has contested races for Precinct Committeeman, School Boards, Water District, Sheriff, Treasurer, Circuit clerk (upcoming race), and soon to be County Board again. So, maybe the problem is in the party leader’s interpretation of what a “good” candidate is.
The number of people running for office is not decreasing – quite the opposite.
Why did they not mention the reason(s) for not keeping these “good” board members? The first one was because of multiple conflicts of interest and self dealing, the second because he realized he couldn’t keep the other board members from violating the law, and the most recent for personal reasons. It is the very same people complaining about not keeping board members, that actually recruited the first one to run for office. Why would anyone in their right mind think it is OK to be a county board member and sell their wares to the county? The reality was that it was a contested race and they needed someone that could beat the other candidate for the office – who happened to be a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer, so he couldn’t possibly have been “good” enough for this county…
No, this has been all about keeping the “good-ole-boys” on the board to the detriment of the taxpayers, further eroding public trust. Please keep in mind this is not intended to claim that all the county board members fall in to this category.
It is the civic duty of all citizens to question their public officials. It is the moral duty for news organizations to question, verify, and publish the truth, not just all the good things so as not to embarrass those doing wrong. If public officials can’t handle being questioned, maybe they picked the wrong line of work.
“[The media role is in] fostering a climate of public opinion which regards the corrupt,
however rich and powerful they may be, with the contempt they deserve.” Dr. Livingston Smith.