Re: Auburn Common Council
Thanks for the kind words about my efforts for transparency in local government. Over the years I've used the phrases "home by supper attitude" and "government by nasty surprise" to describe the way things work at City Hall. Most of the people who stumble into these positions see themselves as members of a corporate board. They don't think much in terms of governance. They think that their job is to let management do whatever it wants as long as it doesn't obviously commit malfeasance. If you have a problem with something, the way they think you should handle it is to go in and have a chat with the mayor and let him wheedle or intimidate you into agreement.
I'm obviously not part of the community of consensus that characterizes the council majority. Part of the reason is my own temperament. I'm cautious. I like to know details. Another reason is that I've studied government all my adult life. I think in terms of checks and balances, fiduciary duties, loyal opposition. A third reason is that I'm a Democrat, which has made me a perpetual outsider in my hometown. I have never been part of the club, have never wanted to be and don't ever expect to be. Finally, I know a bit of history...Auburn's as well as the bigger picture. I know that decisions benefit some people more than others and that what's good for one interest might not be good for the community as a whole.
But I'm starting to digress. Debate, if that's what you want to call it, always goes better when the council has an audience. Not just one or two curiousity seekers, but an audience of interested people who aren't afraid to offer their opinions and share their practical knowledge. Not every voice from the audience is the voice of the people. But an audience makes members sit up straighter, speak more carefully and act a little more attentive.
No, I wouldn't have voted to reconfirm Dave Stafford and Terry Rayle even if the vote had come six weeks later. I really and truly like Dave, and I think that Terry at least wants to make sure that procedures are correctly followed. But when the time comes to make a decision, they aren't to be found doing what I think ought to be done. What I wanted to do was to let them know in advance that I wouldn't support their reappointments and tell them why. Springing the appointments on me early denied me the opportunity to show that courtesy.
A final word about the "shovel-ready sites." I really and truly do not like the idea of government acting as somebody's real estate agent, and I like even less the idea of government subsidizing the basic costs of the sale of private property. However, if government is going to assume this risk because decision-makers think it serves the public interest, then there is still a fundamental fiduciary duty to taxpayers to require the repayment of the sums invested if and when the property is sold. The failure of the council and the redevelopment commission to see to this fundamental responsibility is absolutely unbelievable; and I do not think that it is any kind of a stretch to attribute the failure directly to Mayor Yoder's being one of the property owners who is benefiting from this careless use of public funds.
Do not trust the experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is healthy. If you believe the ministers, nothing is wholesome. If you believe the generals, nothing is safe.--Robert Cecil (1830-1903), Third Marquess of Salisbury