Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Buck Stops Nowhere!

As I was surfing through the channels on my trusty Comcast cable last night I suddenly came upon the session of the Richmond City Council. Since there were commercials on the other channels any way, I decided to watch for a while. When it became too unbearable to watch, I shut off the television. That was about seven or eight minutes later.

The council was discussing a paper (councilese for a bill) that would authorize a study of whether the auditing functions of the city and Richmond Public Schools should be combined. I have lived in Richmond long enough to know that when the members of the council want to duck an issue they usually authorize a study. That way they can put off taking any action for a while or, if they are lucky, the issue might just go away.

Well, it soon became apparent to me that I had missed the highlight of the evening. It seems that some citizen had had the temerity during public comments to blame the council for the fiscal mismanagement in the city. As I joined the show, Council President Pantele was expressing his outrage at the offending taxpayer. Mr. Pantele made it clear that he thought the citizen had abused the public comment period by heaping scorn on the council. Mr. Pantele, who apparently does not agree with Harry Truman’s “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” stated that he was offended that any citizen could even think that the City Council was accountable for anything that goes on in the city.

Mr. Pantele was followed by Council Vice President McQuinn who joined the “no mea culpa” theme. Ms. McQuinn stated quite clearly that she would accept no responsibility for any fiscal mismanagement in the city. Since she had never written a check on behalf of the city or instructed any city employee to take any action, she clearly felt no need to acknowledge that all this maladministration had happened on her watch. Ms. McQuinn’s “see no evil, hear no evil” posture fits in quite nicely in River City.

Then Northside District councilperson Hilbert started talking. He spoke of some meaningful things, like the City Council’s oversight responsibility for all the operations of city government. He also expressed his opinion that the Wilder Administration had violated the terms of the council’s budget ordinances and that the council had a responsibility to expose the administration’s misdeeds.

It was at this time that Central District councilperson Jewell shouted out “Point of order, Mr. President.” Mr. Jewell, a staunch supporter of the mayor, felt that Mr. Hilbert’s discussion of oversight and accountability was not germane to the paper being considered by the council. President Pantele agreed and ruled Mr. Hilbert out of order. The only “relevant” part of the discussion was over. I pushed the OFF button on my remote in disgust.

So, citizens of Richmond, we have a mayor who goes around with a “What, Me Worry?” attitude. He can’t be blamed for any wrong that happens in the city because he denies any knowledge. We have a City Council whose members think they are not accountable or responsible for anything that goes on in the city. And we taxpayers just keep on paying the bills.

Dear reader, the next time you have nothing to do on a Monday night watch the Richmond City Council in action. It is obviously the best reality show in town.

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