Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Manager-Council Government: Less Democracy, More Hypocrisy

     I see that our officious First Ward council member Kevin W. Johnson is at it again, once more donning his Mussolini hat to modernize government the way the Italian dictator did, which was by undermining democracy. As if he had not done enough harm when he engineered the change back to the less democratic manager-council form of government, Johnson is proposing five more amendments to the city charter. For someone who is telling people as he makes his political rounds that he will be moving from Portsmouth as soon as conveniently possible, wouldn't you think he would stay around to live with consequences of these charter amendments he so freely and underhandedly proposes?
      What  apparently motivated Johnson to go on his latest amendment binge was the recent election in the Sixth Ward primary in which the incumbent Jeff Kleha finished third in the voting, disqualifying him from being a candidate in the general election. What Johnson and City Manager Derek Allen claimed to be disturbed by was that Sixth Ward voters were allowed to vote for two instead of just one of the three candidates. That is unusual. Usually voters vote for only one candidate. It may be unusual to vote for two in a primary in which there are three candidates, but that is not an infringement of democracy nor a  violation of the city charter or state law, which doesn’t specify how many candidates an elector can vote for in a primary. I think that what  really upset Johnson and especially Allen was not the irregularity of voting for two candidates, or the allegedly bad precedent the Sixth Ward set that Allen claims may haunt us for fifty years. That is not the bottom line in all this.
     What really upset Allen was the defeat of Kleha,  whom the city manager  was counting on for continued support on city council. If Kleha had not lost,  I doubt Johnson or Allen would have been the least upset. If Allen was acting on principle and not on selfish political motives, why did he wait until after the election, after Kleha’s loss, before making a public issue of the primary by writing a letter of protest to the Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn? As Kuhn pointed out in his ruling on the Sixth Ward primary, no one, including Allen, had objected in a timely manner to the unusual voting arrangement. And what was the city manager doing involving himself in the issue in the first place? Wasn't that as Kuhn pointed out the responsibility of the Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas, the city's chief legal officer?
      What Allen found most  disturbing, if truth be told,  was  that the top vote getters in the primary, Tom Lowe and Shawn Stratton, have been critical of Allen’s performance as city manager, Stratton vehemently so. Since Allen could be terminated if the required number of the city council decide he has to go, he cannot afford to have even one member of the council who thinks he's not up to the job. If there was one council member against him, there might be more, and it would only take four to be a majority against him, and what then of Allen's job security? When  Allen told the Daily Times “he has no opinion regarding the outcome of the election or on the ruling of the Board of Election,” I believe he was not telling the truth, as I think is obvious in other things he said about the primary election. As city manager he knows he is supposed to be above politics, to be impartial. Was he lying when he claimed he had no opinion? Do you think a city official who would lie under oath as a public official in his hometown, as Allen had in Piqua, would such an official hesitate, in a city in which he is a commuting city manager,  hesitate to lie to a local newspaper reporter? If Kevin Johnson is something of a Mussolini, Allen is something of a Machiavelli. I don’t mean to imply that either of them is a fascist, but they both have a fine Italian hand, showing a contempt for the democratic process and for the intelligence of the electorate, which may be why they are so underhanded. 
     Speaking of undemocratic tactics I will have something alarming  to reveal about the undemocratic tactics that supporters of  the  manager-council form of city government resorted to in 2011 to get the change-in-government amendment passed. All I will mention at this point is an acronym. No, I don't mean SOGP, which blessedly is no longer with us, but ICMA, which unfortunately is.