Time to grow up, boys
A dearth of straight talk following Commissioners Michael Gallagher and Tom Stone’s decision not to share the chairman’s gavel at Commissioner Arn Menconi’s customary turn in the role pretty much confirmed high minded principle had precious little to do with this middle schoolish stunt.
Chairman Gallagher, who perhaps ought to go by the moniker Seldom Seen, promptly ducked all attempts for a cogent explanation. Now there’s leadership.
Stone at least had the fortitude to answer questions about breaking with a tradition that has lasted at least 20 years, with a rare exception two years ago when Stone served a second term because Menconi and Gallagher were new.
Alas, his answer was objectively ridiculous.
He said he just didn’t realize Menconi might be interested in taking his customary turn as chairman this year. As if Menconi was supposed to plead his case Tuesday for a position that should simply have passed to him.
As if Stone lost all memory of a Board of Commissioners meeting as recently as December, in which Menconi asked him about it, and Stone replied he wasn’t prepared to discuss the subject. As if the county department heads and other staff who were present didn’t witness that moment. As if it weren’t reported in the county’s newspapers, by reporters who were there, too.
As if a commissioner who can recite in detail stories and nuances of stories he thinks this paper has missed suddenly didn’t notice what 25,000 or so readers read with no doubt varying degrees of interest.
That’s Stone’s answer? He didn’t know? Of course he knew.
And Gallagher’s answer was to avoid the inconvenient question.
Whatever this bit of petulance is about, it ain’t about running the best county in the country, that’s for sure.
At one level, the issue is miniscule. The chairmanship is pretty much ceremonial, and no real power is attached. The churlish behavior exhibited in denying Menconi his turn, however, is easy enough to comprehend. It’s simple, symbolic, and telling in ways that are not exactly laudatory for Gallagher and Stone.
Too bad. It was so easy to do the right thing.
Menconi, whether constituents or the other commissioners agree with a position he takes, has proved a competent, hardworking public servant. He’s built a better rapport with many of the municipal governments than the other two. He, like Stone, has made a priority of getting out in the public beyond the confines of the county office, which makes these leaders more visible and gives them wider feedback than they would otherwise receive.
Last spring, he began an effort to bring the valley’s leaders and potential leaders together for a series of lectures and discussion on county issues. It’s becoming a class at CMC this semester and will pay dividends in years to come in encouraging the various government bodies to work more cooperatively together, with better information at their fingertips.
Menconi has been deeply involved and an asset in a host of initiatives that matter to the constituents. In short, he’s more than earned his turn with the gavel. And apparently, he’s the lone grownup on this board. By contrast, Stone and Gallagher managed to embarrass the county on its grandest day.
Let’s hope they look in the mirror and can find a way to become more clear-minded – and forthcoming with the public – as they go about their other decisions to come this challenging year.
Their focus needs to remain firmly fixed on their high calling to serve the public, rather than getting caught up in sandbox politics. Time to grow up, boys. D.R.
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