Sunday, January 27, 2013

Local Saurons -OR- When Flying Monkeys Swarm

It all started innocently enough. The boys club had adjourned to closed session to discuss the things that are legal to talk about behind closed doors. One Mayor, four commissioners. At some point in the proceedings one of the commissioners introduced the idea of giving our Village Administrator a bump in pay. After all, he's a hard-working guy. A $20,000 raise would be fitting. That would make him the highest paid non-union village employee, which is only fair since the VA is at the top of the organizational chart.

Keep in mind, this is taking place in a small suburb of Chicago, Crook County, Proviso Township, Illinois; population 14,000 and change. Our present village administrator is home-grown. A childhood and lifelong friend of the Mayor, without, what one might call, credentials. Still, he rose to the top in a nationwide search for a professional administrator. His hiring was justified owing to his familiarity with our village's quirks. Since he was himself a former three term commish, he knew the ropes, the players, the game. He'd have no learning curve and he was willing to work cheap owing to his fierce loyalty to his home town.

This public administration is no big deal. It's not rocket science after all. He'd hired our first "professional" administrator back in the 90s. He helped handpick the second and gave input on the third before deciding not to seek re-election. Throughout his elected terms he was part of the ruling majority and was relatively popular.

He'd been in that back room. He knew how things worked. He didn't need to be there to fix this glitch, but somehow, things didn't go according to the script. The village is, depending on whose numbers you use, $65-85 Million in debt, resulting in a downgrade in our Moody's rating. The economy had done a number on revenues. Property values are down. We lost a major car dealship. Another had downsized expecting to be wounded in the Detroit shuffle. The trendy strip of boutiques and shoppes along the commercial district were suffering, limping or had closed/moved on. Revenues were down across the ledger. Money is tight, so it wouldn't look too good to give one guy a $20K raise. The idea was tabled.

The Mayor's usual 3-2 majority had let him and his buddy down. No harm; no foul. Then one of the usual two of that 3-2 final, broke with time-honored protocol and spoke to the local paper about what had transpired in the back room. Oh the humanity! When the paper ran the story, people were talking! The comment section of the online version started to boil. At first expressing shock and outrage at the weirdness. Then it turned. even. weirder. Like something out of Hitchcock, the seagulls arrived, pecking and flapping and crappin' all over. This is just one guy breaking "the rules" and the paper getting its jealously and hate on for the ruling majority. Our VA should be paid just like the credentialed pros. He's a nice guy. He deserves it. He's EARNED it.

This issue became such an ISSUE, that the mayor felt that he must set the record straight, so a letter was crafted, printed and mailed to every mailbox in town, giving his official interpretation of things. The raise was a non-issue. THE issue was that one commissioner transgressed the sanctity of "closed session" for purely political gamesmanship. What might seem a political piece of work limited to distribution by the mayor's campaign organization and funding, was instead a village (taxpayer) expense.

"Mayor's perogative"? Calls have been made to the various oversight and legal resources to determine if this mailing is a legitimate government function. No rulings yet... stay tuned.

Since being hired as VA, things have run smoothly. Gag orders to village employees issued and internet policies were implemented so that information comes forth (or not) only through official channels. No one speaks unless authorized! There is no official evaluation process of the VA's job performance, and no benchmarks for comparison. Nobody can say what anyone else would have done if given the position based on education and experience. The job description is a work-in-progress.

The general operating nexus is that Three beats Two. Majority rulz! I could go off on a rant concerning the scorched earth demonization of past and present opposition, critics or even questioners of the three beats two absolute method. It's a tight ship, run by our very own Captain Queeg.

I'd be embarrassed for my village if I thought it would do any good. From a purely spectator perspective, I've seen Jr. High School student governments with higher standards and ethics.

Two weeks in, it's just gotten weirder and weirder. The paper also ran a story about our newly seated rep in the state legislature's redrawn 7th district. He'd won his primary by 36 votes after a tough, ugly campaign. He was unopposed in the November general election.

He verified a rumor that one of his first hires as the new state rep was a former cop in the area who had pled guilty to obstruction of justice in a scheme/scandal that used on-duty cops and equipment to provide private security to area businesses.
The "service" was run by the chief of police who was also convicted.

That story provoked many comments as well. It then went (locally) viral! "Everybody deserves a second chance!" "Ex-felons are people too!" The paper and its operatives are unprofessional crybabies!" Muckrakers! Yellow Journalists! Smear merchants!

In another place and time, again, I might be embarrassed or even ashamed at the enjoyment I've derived from watching all of this unfold, but I'm past that. This is what happens when the cool/popular kids become empowered via shallow, popularity contests in which lying isn't just encouraged, it's the game plan. Once in power they show all of the pettiness and meanness of playground bullies everywhere.

You can actually watch society's devolution take place in real time. You can see Opposite World in a semi-controlled petri dish, up close and very personal. You can observe both the method AND the madness.

As the methodology has spread up and down the food chain, very local to township,county, state federal governments, to the UN and globally. The quirky similarities are obvious. It is a darkness differing only to the extent of the brutality practiced.
Complete with armies of orcs, goblins, trolls and seagulls in seemingly endless supply. Lots of noise and great gnashing of tooths. Flapping of wings and jaws. Full of sound and fury, all merely part of the pageant quickly rendering itself more trouble than it's worth to the average mortal.

If there's a place where this has not happened, you can be sure that it will. Sooner rather than later. Wherever herds of numbots can be driven, they will visit and their stay will be unpleasant. Resistance is futile?



zachary klein said...

"From a purely spectator perspective, I've seen Jr. High School student governments with higher standards and ethics."

Sounds about right.

Suzan said...

No buts.

Just a "yeah!"

Love ya,