Responsive Representative Government After Commissioners Ticketed For Vote

Saturday, February 22, 2014

This week Hamilton County residents were offered a shining example of the power of the people, the humility of servant leaders on the Hamilton County Commission, and how our representative form of government is meant to function. 

The issue?  

On Wednesday a proposal came before the Hamilton County Commission to provide Sheriff Jim Hammond and his department with a laser camera system that would have enabled his officers to identify a speeding car, document the incident from inside their patrol car with a video camera, and then automatically mail the ticket to the owner of the speeding car.  (Note I did not say the driver of the car.) 

Following a brief presentation and discussion of the merits and flaws with such a system, the County Commission approved the proposal by a vote of 5-4.  Voting in favor of the proposal were Commissioners Bankston, Beck, Fields, Haynes, and Henry.  Voting against the proposal were Commissioners Boyd, Graham, Mackey, and Skillern. 

What followed over the next 12-18 hours was inspiring to witness for those of us who believe in the power of We the People and who are constantly seeking to engage citizens in their government in a more meaningful but respectful manner.   

Following the reporting of the vote on Wednesday there was an instant outcry by grassroots citizens.  Social media erupted in a flurry of posts denouncing the vote.  Facebook posts tagged the commissioners directly, providing immediate access and feedback to elected officials.  Emails were sent.  Tweets were tweeted.  Phone were dialed.  And commissioners began to feel the repercussions of their vote within minutes.  

In an era when technology seems to be unduly focused on law abiding citizens, whether globally by the NSA or locally by the Hamilton County sheriff’s department, citizens chose to use their technology to reach out and touch their representatives in an impactful and positive manner.

Fortunately for Hamilton County, our elected officials are not positioned in ivory towers and removed from the people, as is too often the case with our elected officials in Washington and at times even in Nashville.  Many constituents have valued personal relationships with their Hamilton County elected officials.  And those relationships serve to keep the commissioners more accountable to the people. 

We saw that accountability of the commissioners to the people by their quick and decisive response to the citizens’ concerns.  Within hours three commissioners announced they would be reversing their vote:  Commissioner Henry, Bankston and Haynes.  And for their responsiveness they deserve to hear back positively from every citizen who griped about their initial vote.  

I suppose the quote of the week goes to Commissioner Chester Bankston.  When referring to the flood of calls he received from his constituents Bankston said: “My butt’s chewed up. This time I will be voting no.” 

We all make mistakes.  But the measure of a man is what he does when confronted with that mistake.  This week, we saw the humility of several servant leaders in acknowledging their mistake and seeking to correct it.  For that my hat goes off to each of them.  Thank you, commissioners.

I wonder if it would be too much to ask for similar results from our Washington representatives?     

I guess it never hurts to dream. 

Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. 

Mark D. West


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