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Tom Henry

Newsroom Editor

Editorial

City Council should be servants, not pharaonic lords and masters

Saturday, January 20, 2018

“Under our form of government, the source of authority is supposed to be ‘we the people’…our elected leaders are supposed to be pubic servants and not private masters,” James Dye.

If any of you fine people heard a very loud groan and a few choice curse words Tuesday evening but couldn’t identify where they came from, let me apologize because it was probably me. I attempt to contain my contempt and rage at bad government in Blytheville, but Tuesday evening when the entire City Council except for Councilwoman Barbara Brothers (voted ‘no’) and Councilman John Musgraves (was absent) selfishly voted to overturn existing law that required council members to attend at least four meetings per month before receiving full pay and insurance benefits - I decided a line had been crossed. It is time to force change, even if it means doing the forcing myself.

Just last week in my column “The people rule and the law is king” I addressed lawlessness and issued a warning of what the council was about to do. Tuesday night, we witnessed it in action, with a blatant arrogance that would even make Pharaoh proud.

I must repeat that lawlessness is not just a string of illegal actions, but is an attitude of being above the law.

For example, we have all complained about extreme cases of able-bodied people receiving a government check without ever having to even roll out of bed or do any work. We have all complained about those lawless thieves that, rather than working and earning their own stuff, simply rob and take from those that do work hard for very long hours in backbreaking jobs. We have all complained about our elected officials losing touch with reality and we the “little guys”, simply making decisions that benefit themselves and no one else. We have also all complained, at one time or another, that no one looks out for our interests and that our city officials don’t even care what we think. Well, this week they proved without a shadow of a doubt that our complaints have been warranted and that they simply don’t give a darn. They told us loud and clear, “Tough! Just deal with it Blytheville taxpayers. You must do your part (pay taxes) and we’ll just do whatever we darned well please.”

Until Tuesday’s vote the law has been that Blytheville’s City Council members had to show up for meetings in order to get paid. That is no longer the case. You and I still have to go to work or starve, but it no longer applies to our self-anointed “lords and masters” (the city council).

If you or I don’t show up for work, we simply don’t get paid. It must be wonderful being special and better than that. Perhaps next we’ll be asked to pay more taxes again so that we can provide them with reclined seats, plump grapes and someone to fan our elected lords with huge ostrich feathers (if they were to ever sweat).

In addition to the fact that their actions do not ingratiate the public to any false notion that they are there to represent us or that they care what we think, and in addition to the fact that it teaches our youth that receiving a government check without even having to show up for work is even what our leaders do, and even though it teaches them that there is a reward for not earning one’s own money but rather from simply stealing the fruit of another’s labor (wasted tax money), it is also potentially problematic from a legal point of view.

In December 2014, Governor Mike Beebe made appointments to fill a commission that was designed to investigate how statewide officers, state legislators and judges were being paid and one of the abuses that they exposed was elected officials (note not the municipal level) that were receiving pay and reimbursement for meetings that they never attended.

Hmmm. In 2017, the City of Blytheville, under Mayor James Sanders’ watch, paid every council member full pay and insurance benefits even though some did not meet their attendance requirement. How is that any different than the above scandals, except for the fact that they are Blytheville city officials rather than state or district? It should still be a crime.

In 2016, a state auditor found that a few Lawrence County Quorum Court justices had received pay despite having missed more than one court meeting. The state only allowed members to miss one court meeting a year at that time. The auditor “wrote it up and sent it to the prosecuting attorney” and as a result, the justices agreed to pay back the money that they had illegally received.

In December of 2015 the same issue came up in Craighead County.

Last week I quoted Dorothy Thompson, “Lawlessness is a self-perpetuating, ever-expanding habit.” We know this to be true, because the lawlessness begins small and eventually the tentacles go deeper and spread into all activities. It is now time that we not only stop this ridiculous grab for power and privilege and it is also not just time to cut off a tentacle or two – it is time to cut off the actual corrupt head so that the whole disgusting monster dies (See my columns Spiral of Corruption and Unaccountability, parts 1 and 2)!

Its time to fire almost all of our city’s elected officials.

thenry@blythevillecourier.com