Your County Government at…Work?

Yesterday, the Jefferson County Commission apparently voted to hire a Washington lobbying firm to try to get federal help with the sewer crisis.  I say “apparently” because you’d never know it by watching this video, which shows discussion (I use the word loosely) of the proposal.  The, um, discourse broke down into a mêlée during which a citizen was removed for exercising his right of free speech and — believe it or not — the vote was taken and the meeting quickly adjourned.  It happened so quickly that Commissioner Jim Carns, who opposes the hiring, wasn’t aware of the vote.

I know we’re living in upside-down land when I find myself agreeing with Comm. Carns, who used to be my State Rep. and leans way too far to the (religious) right for my taste.  But I’m with him:

“This is ridiculous.  And I object.”

Me too, Jim.  As do both Artur Davis and Spencer Bachus, who have made it clear that paying a lobbyist is a waste of money.  Of course, that never stopped the Commission before.


Related posts here.  The video linked above is long, and most of the excitement takes place toward the end.  Well, except for the part where  Shelia Smoot tries to take credit for Artur Davis’ plan to meet with local, state, and federal officials to discuss alternatives.  That’s closer to the middle.

10 Responses to “Your County Government at…Work?”

  1. Del says:

    I am not well-educated about the B’ham crisis, but does this just mean they’re thinking “ordinarily we’d be in deep sh*t right now, but as it happens they’re about to dump a boatload of money all across America, and one of them slick guys with connections can get us enough to take care of our problems and then some”?

    Or, to paraphrase my earlier post about the Blagojevich situation, maybe they’re just thinking, “Isn’t this how everybody else does it?”

  2. Kathy says:

    That’s exactly what they’re thinking. I’m not sure whom they expect to be the targets of the lobbying or what they expect it to achieve. Davis and Bachus don’t appear to be at all receptive to a lobbying effort, and Davis at least is already prepared to work with local officials to craft some kind of solution. This contract just seems like more flailing as the boat goes down, and it’s a PR disaster.

  3. Don says:

    A quite distressed lady in the Birmingham area sent me a link to the video yesterday and after viewing it in disbelief I replied to her saying, in part, as follows:

    I’ve seen a lot of headlines about numerous problems in Birmingham and Jefferson County but since I don’t live there I never paid much attention to them. Now I think I know why those problems exist…….very poor government officials. It seems that Langford is now doing to Birmingham what he did to Jefferson County. What’s in the water voters up there drink to make them elect such incompetents, if not outright crooks?

    I’ve been to a couple of Elmore County Commission meetings and I was on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives a couple of times but I’ve never seen such a poorly conducted affair. There was even less decorum than in the HOR.

    If this meeting is an argument for anything I think it’s an argument against even limited Home Rule, and I’m a believer in Home Rule. I think it would work well if voters elected competent officials and voted them out if they failed to do a good job for their constituents. The three commissioners other than Carns and the gentleman on the other side of Mrs. Collins seemed like inmates running the asylum. I think it’s also a good argument against residing in Jefferson County if it can be avoided. (There’s a house down the street from me that was just placed on the market — HINT)

    I really think some deep investigating needs to be done to find out if there is linkage of any sort between any of the 3 commissioners who voted to hire the lobbying firm and anyone connected with the firm. With the exorbitant amount involved in the contract there could very well be some kickbacks involved.

    Is there a Recall provision in the Jefferson County government?

  4. Del says:

    Looks like you might be on to something, Don.

    Funny you should mention home rule. Just last week, I asked Mark Berte if a new constitution restoring home rule wouldn’t cause harm by giving characters like LaLa free rein. His answer was that the voters would have to remove them. I agree that this is how the American system is supposed to work, but…

  5. Don says:

    Del, I think I know what corruption smells like when I get just a whiff of it, and there’s more than a whiff of it in Jefferson County. It’s more like a stench up there.

    Home Rule SHOULD work for several reasons. As Thomas P. “Tip” O’neill said, “all politics is local”, and as another wise man once said, “The best government is that which is closest to the people it governs”. The reasoning behind that is that voters have far more control over government entities like city councils and county commissions than they do over state legislators because if they and their neighbors feel that they’re not being properly represented they have a greater chance of getting together and voting local rascals out of office the next time they have an election than they have at voting any state legislator or other office holder (especially with the gerrymandered districts in Alabama) out of office. However, for Home Rule, to work uninformed voters must be outnumbered by informed voters.

    As far as a new Alabama constitution is concerned, I think it should include a recall provision for all state, county, and municipal office holders AND Initiative and Referendum for Alabama voters to use, if and when necessary. As Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912, “the initiative and referendum should be used, not as substitutes for representative government, but as methods of making such government really representative. Action by the initiative or referendum ought not to be the normal way of legislation; but the power to take it should be provided in the constitution, so that if the representatives fail truly to represent the people on some matter of sufficient importance to rouse popular interest, then the people shall have in their hands the facilities to make good the failure”.

    I contend that the Alabama legislature has met and surpassed the threshold set forth by T.R. long ago, and that a majority of Alabamians would agree with me.

    What say you?

  6. Kathy says:

    Don, the corruption is more like a conflagration here. I think we’re now up to 22 people who have been convicted or taken a guilty plea on charges related to the sewer debacle and the resulting financial mess. It looks like there is no existing recall provision, but a state legislator wants to pass one this session that would allow recall for state, county, and judicial elected officials. It might get out of the House, but I doubt the Senate will do anything other than squabble over leadership positions. Too bad we can’t also recall the developers, lawyers, and bankers who were fellow travelers on this road. They have walked away with profits the taxpayers will never recoup.

    Del, great catch on that link. Why am I not surprised?

  7. Don says:

    Kathy, according to the article you provided a link to “Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins declined to comment on Treadaway’s proposal.”

    As Gomer Pyle might say, “Surprise, SURPRISE!!!!!”

    Collins was supposed to be a conservative at one time. I wonder what changed that pussy-cat’s stripes?

  8. Sansou says:


    And what about this morning’s paper?! Whoa Nellie, check out “Slaughter linked to lobbyist” and Archibald’s column, “Vote-and-run left banks with a voice.” I swear, Carl Hiassen is missing a golden opportunity here. Today’s Bham News stories are worthy of a whole new blog, so pretty please put your pen to it?

  9. Kathy says:

    Don, I think Bettye Fine is in pure self-preservation mode now. And as we’ve seen over the past eight years, corruption knows no political philosophy. As much as Jim Carns and Bobby Humphryes want to make this about party affiliation, there has been plenty of wrongdoing across party lines.

    Sansou, I’ll do my best. :) Thanks for the tip to John Archibald — I could likely just link to his column and add, “What he said.”

  10. Sansou says:

    — I could likely just link to his column and add, “What he said.”

    Yeah, that guy can wrap up an issue tighter than my mom’s Seal A Meal bags could vacuum-pack leftovers! Dang, he’s good! He and Barnett Wright should have a Pulitzer collection on their mantels.

    Hmmm, if BFC had lied to investigators the way she lied to the public and the media , wouldn’t she be joining Mary Buckelew in the feds’ hit parade of Indicted Commissioners??

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