Tom Henry

Newsroom Editor


The people rule and the law is king

Friday, January 12, 2018

“Lawlessness is a self-perpetuating, ever-expanding habit,” Dorothy Thompson.

“No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it,” President Theodore Roosevelt.

When one hears the word lawlessness, most think of drugs, murder, armed robberies or perhaps a young punk disrespecting their parents. But lawlessness goes much further than that and to me is far more egregious when it comes cloaked in respectability.

Lawlessness is not just a string of criminal acts, but rather is a way of life and a mindset. The lawless always possess a belief that they are special and above the law, fervently believing that their interests more important that those of the masses. And as Thompson’s quote above states, little by little, one compromise at a time, lawlessness grows – always in the name of peace and tolerance.

Thomas Paine wrote in his pamphlet “Common Sense”, “in America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free counties the law ought to be king.”

Around the same time, Boston Clergyman Mather Byles asked, “Which is better - to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?"

Everyone demands the locking up of punks that kill, rob, shoot or sell drugs (unless they are family or friend). Why? Because those punks are selfish, evil, exploitative and lawless.

But I have seen equally selfish, evil, exploitative and lawless (refusing to follow the law) elected officials and even connected, respectable (but equally selfish, evil, exploitative and lawless) community leaders not provoke the same response from the average Joe Q. Citizen.

We have given power to a small cadre of “special people”, clearly above the law that are perfect examples of the very “tyrants one mile away” that Byles warned us of. This way of life causes us to find lawlessness in our government and in many local boards, committees and organizations. We often forgive it though, because we don’t want to perform their tasks ourselves.

For example, Blytheville City Council members are required to attend a minimum of four meetings each month to receive full pay. They receive over $6,000 per year (plus benefits) and all they have to do is attend a minimum of 48 meetings a year and answer their phone when citizens call. Not too shabby and not too burdensome; but still some are not following the law, yet receive full pay.

One person argues that council members should not have their pay altered based upon attendance as if they were still in school. Well, beside the fact that some on the council need to go back to school to learn both basic economic principles and simple grammar, the attendance requirement would never have been created had the council not been playing hooky from their duties. We wish we could trust the council and honestly it’s an embarrassment that we have to keep roll.

I’ve been told (impossible to verify “on the record”) that a resolution is being drawn up that would eliminate the attendance requirement. I hope that is not true because that is just pitiful. The Council cancelled many, many meetings in 2017. They have also conducted much of our city business in private, out of the public’s view and in violation of the Arkansas FOIA laws. They believe themselves above public accountability.

Additionally, their self-imposed rules regarding who may address the full city council makes it virtually impossible for anyone to ever give citizen input or complaint. One must get advanced permission to be placed on the agenda to speak (almost never happens). And if you just show up for their meeting, you may only speak on an item already on their agenda. Unfortunately, the public has no knowledge of what will be on the agenda until meeting time.

So go to the committee meetings, right? Well, you might be allowed to speak or you might not (depending on the meeting). Usually you may, but you might be limited to only three minutes. Also, unless you are fluent in the city’s structure, you might show up for the wrong committee and be forbidden.

I honestly don’t know how difficult it is for the average citizen to speak with their councilman.

The bottom line is this – every taxpaying citizen of this city shows up for work, most literally punching a clock. We perform the work for which we were hired and we know exactly who the boss is. We work harder and longer hours while too many of us receive no insurance or benefits (like council members do). Our bosses maintain our attendance records, yes just like schoolchildren, and we answer our phones every time that our boss calls. That’s just life as an adult. That is just minimum effort.

But when one becomes a “public servant” one pledges an even more sacred commitment. So, I am asking all Blytheville City Council members to search their souls and think about whether or not they really believe they should continue to receive full pay while not fully performing the job they agreed to do for the city, as a “public servant.”

Don’t you dare try to remove the attendance requirement. In stead, show up to every meeting and do the very best job you can for all Blytheville citizens. Either that or simply get out of the way for someone that will.