Thursday, January 26, 2006

Panel says let County Council members stay while running

Panel says let County Council members stay while running Allegheny County Council members shouldn't have to resign from their seats if they run for higher office.


This gets my blood to a boil rather quickly.
The charter, now in its sixth year of existence, instructs council members to step down before becoming candidates for other offices, and the review commission's members have already agreed that voters should be given a chance to do away with that provision.

Voters already had TWO chances to do away with the provision. Both times, the voters said that they like this law in the county charter. The politicians don't like the law. But, the voters like it. I like it too.

"It doesn't serve any good government purpose," Don Linzer, commission chairman, said before yesterday's public meeting.

Who is Don Linzer?

This provision has many great reasons for being. It should continue because county council should not be a stepping stone to other offices. It should continue because county council was never meant to be a full-time job. It should continue because when one runs for other office, while being on county council, then the work of the people can't get done as it should. It should continue because we've had enough with corruption around here. It should continue because it is less drastic than term limits. It should continue because great candidates don't want to run against machine politicians for races and we get poorer, tainted, representation in other offices upstream. This law forces a more even election among citizen contestants.

The commission's final report, which will address a wide range of issues, won't be completed until mid-February.
They might need to think again.

At least four, not as many as four of council's 15 members may run for seats in the state Legislature this year. While they won't benefit from a change to the charter -- they will all ignore what the charter says and run as candidates and not resign. They'll all hold out and trash the law. They'll all kick off their campaign with a big fat cloud over their races. I hope to be proven wrong. An ethical candidate for another office would resign from council as soon as he or she starts to raise money for another office.

Fitzgerald said: "To me, it's a no-brainer," he said. "It stabilizes the institution." NO WAY. Fitzgerald wants stability for the politician. Fitzgerald wants to greese the pipeline from one office to the next. This measure is not about stability. This is about reversing the flow and putting it into a favorable direction for the people.

When a council member steps down, remaining members must appoint someone to fill that seat until the next election. That, Mr. Fitzgerald argues, temporarily disenfranchises the voters. The disenfranchised part comes because the member of council makes it so. If you are going to run for state office -- don't get elected to county council. If you want to run for county council, stay until your term is finished. If you want to QUIT your elected post -- you just screwed the voters.

If a person quits before his or her term is finished, then that term should NOT be filled until the next election. Then a special election can occur. The appointment of a member by the others on council is another slap in the face to our democracy. The other members of council -- who don't live in that area of the county -- get to make a decision for the residents that should not be theirs to make.

You don't need a warm body to fill the seat. There is no real constituent services that is being done by such a part-time person without staffing and without a budget.

Fitzgerald argues that state legislators insisted on including the provision in the county's charter to make it harder for council members to run against them. -- Ha, ha, ha. He's joking right? The state reps, some 10 of them who really care, are worth 10 votes. There were tens of thousands who voted for this element in the charter. The people have spoken on this issue -- not the state reps.

Fitzgerald -- we'll do better than an incumbency protection plan -- with a term limit then. The clean sweep can go to county council too if you whine such foolishness for your cronies.

Rich Nerone, Bill Robinson, Eileen Watt, and C.L. Jabbour all need to QUIT their seats on council NOW.

The charter is NOT vague at all. John Mascio, council's chief clerk, is being a kiss-butt if he thinks otherwise. It is clear -- but council members don't want clarity. They want a loophole. He thinks they don't have to leave their seats until the withdrawal deadline passes -- but he is making up fiction. The charter says when they are a candidate, not when the deadline passes.

The county solicitor's legal opinion is not needed when the charter is so clear. Common sense and 3rd graders can tell what's what and who's stroking who with this news and its coverage.

No comments: