(published in Effingham Now, part of the Savannah Morning News, December 22, 2010)
If I lived in Springfield, the WikiLeaks website that's been the source of much recent world consternation sure would come in handy.
Springfield's residents can learn from the Internet the United States trusts no one, the rest of the world doesn't trust Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, North Korea's dictator wears Perry the Platypus underwear and that Canada is boring. At the same time, folks in Springfield can't find out diddly squat about their own elected officials, thanks to their own elected officials.
The Springfield City Council recently voted 5-1 to recommend Mayor Jeff Northway resign for the high crime of selling the Dasher family cane syrup recipe to Russian spies.
Of course, that's a made-up reason for the council's no-confidence vote. But without a self-concocted version of what goes on in those infamously secret council meetings, a summary of those meetings would read like a script from the legendary '70s show "Match Game," with lots of blanks to be filled in by guesses from contestants. In this case, the contestants are Springfield's taxpayers who have to foot the bill for this farce.
It is perfectly legal for the council to hold these closed-door meetings (or, as the lawyers tell everyone to call them, "executive sessions" - the closest some politicians ever get to being an actual executive) to discuss "the good name and character" of a person. It seems that with a 5-1 vote asking the guy to resign, the councilmen have made up their minds about the mayor's name and character, and they don't think it's very good.
If that's the case, why are they still playing games with secret meetings and attorneys on the city dole investigating goodness knows what? I know the cane syrup is delicious - it's the perfect companion to homemade biscuits - but come on. If the allegations are more serious than syrupy, if there are "multiple things" the council's hired gun claims, just what are those things? What else did the mayor do, raise his pinkie while partaking of a Schnitzel Shack beer boot?
In fairness to the council, we don't know if Northway is guilty of any wrongdoing. Perhaps he is. But if the mayor is innocent of gleaming the hoo-hah as he claims, why doesn't he spoil the council's fun and name the hoo-hah of which he is accused? Northway is just as guilty as anyone on the council of keeping the people who put him in office in the dark.
Well, perhaps we should say the handful of people who put the mayor in office. Calling for public meetings to be held in public only helps if the public takes its eyes off "Dancing With the Stars" once in a while and pays attention. Springfield has more than 2,300 residents, according to the latest Census estimate, yet only 160 bothered to vote in the last mayoral election.
In fairness to the public, that election was held in an off year, 2009. Perhaps it isn't the case in Springfield, but it has long been a tradition among politicians, who wish to concentrate power among the privileged few, to schedule their elections when they know voter turnout will be lighter than an after-church pimento cheese sandwich luncheon.
Bottom line, Mayor Northway is refusing to step down for the high crime of getting a pink Mohawk at Studio 24 instead of a manlier dry cut at the Effingham Hardware barber shop.
The council assures us they are investigating more serious allegations. If that's the case, everyone involved should cut the legalese bull hockey and lay their cards out before the public.
It comes as a shock to politicians sometimes, but voters are adults. It's long past time for the Springfield council and mayor to start acting like adults as well.