Ruehlig: Council appointment a charade of political payback
I avoided throwing my line off the pier for Antioch City Council appointment precisely so that I could not be blamed in post-derby comment for personal-driven sniping.
Hence, I could now easily just button the lip and get along by going along. Silent acquiescence is not my stripe, though. If the Emperor has no clothes, let’s call it.
As feared by many, this appointment was a charade. Applications, interviews and ‘whittling down’ were window dressing, my friends. The die was long cast for patronage.
In truth, I had my doubts about the wisdom of the appointment process. It’s not because the ideal is flawed; it is, in concept, a noble idea, like communism, that on paper works. Practice, though, is another kettle of fish. You see, if you don’t use an objective measure like next highest vote getter you leave yourself open to subjectivity. Likely to enter left stage, politics as usual, i.e., the buddy system, payback, and the temptation to stack the deck.
Again, in the abstract, picking someone who is the most experienced in governance, most involved in the community and most complimentary to the existing skill set of the Council is noble and conceptually doable. It’s just a darned hard assignment for most folks, human nature given what it is.
Case in point; by a 3-1 vote this Council took the subjective, lower and less enlightened road, choosing someone notable principally as a past union leader and political operative who worked aside them on many campaigns. Bless her family style, but Mr. Tiscareno also happened, from all accounts, to have grown up as a virtual third son to Mary Rocha.
Those are not “bad” things, but in doing so, though, the Council bypassed people overflowing with civic and governance accomplishment. The rejected resumes sported the likes of a Citizen of the Year, Stanford graduate with a Masters degree, past Mayors, Chief of Staff and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.
Lost was more than experienced talent but a golden opportunity to show Council leadership, to rise above petty politics, and to do best for the City and 105,000 residents. After all, in a marriage or in a business partnership is it wise to favor a spitting image of yourself or, in fact, better to choose one complimentary, enriching and suitably challenging?
Don’t get me wrong, Tony Tiscareno seems a sincere, smart and determined chap who deserves commendation. I wish him nothing but the best. I simply bemoan favors trumping fairness and the process of like choosing like with dispassion forfeited. Yes, count me foolishly old-fashioned but isn’t public service allegedly a public, sacred trust, not tit for tat?
I already miss veteran Brian Kalinowski whom I always admired as an experienced, unvarnished, straight-shooting, unpredictably blue dog style democrat. We now have a Board with only Member Rocha having substantial Council experience. Agopian and Harper have two years each; Wilson and Tiscareno none.
Expect a highly partisan, public employee and union-dominated Council that will echo each other 4-1. Save lone wolf Agopian, where, pray tell, is a business community counter weight?
Is this Council a Solomon-like rudder for balanced, non-partisan decisions in turbulent waters? I fear not and, like legions of others, am rooting for courage. I hope my fears are baseless and am always eager to eat my hat if proven wrong.