And just like that — like a moth unable to avoid the flame — some Hamilton County commissioners want to reopen the slush-fund, vote-buying scam known as discretionary spending accounts.
They will vote on re-instituting the $100,000-per-commissioner back-scratching bankroll next Wednesday. I implore you to call your county commissioner — or better yet, email them and copy me on it — and tell them to vote against this six-figure sleight of hand.
The resolution was introduced by Warren Mackey, who said, "This money has served some good purposes. I've got to believe that I'm not the only commissioner who has poor people and needy people in their district and this money is designed to help bring support to them."
No, this money is designed to curry favor for commissioners who dole it out with little more than a rubber-stamped seal of approval from their colleagues.
Typically, there are checks and balances in budgeting processes. Do you people remember the discretionary fund approval process?
A commissioner — any commissioner — would say he's giving any amount to just about any cause and there would be more "yeses" offered than anywhere this side of the offers for seconds on dessert at a Weight Watchers meeting.
And the lack of oversight or accountability over these funds is only part of the problem. Because, as Mackey said, there is good work that could be done with this money, but there are already avenues in place for that money to get to those places. And remember this, the appearance of kickbacks and favoritism is almost as inappropriate and damaging as the actual acts themselves.
Plus, what makes any commissioner the arbitrator of the value of various charities or the nobility of efforts of volunteers? Because if you deem one cause worthy, eventually you will deem other causes unworthy.
If Mackey or any of the others on the commission — hi, Commissioner Boyd — who supports this fundamentally flawed idea wants to give money to these causes, then give it. Write a check. Better yet, volunteer.
But I already give my money to charities and causes I deem important. That's not what my property tax check should be used for. Nor yours.
Heck, if we've got an extra $900,000 laying around the county coffers so that Mackey and his money and credit grabbers can hand some to every outreached palm, well, that's awesome news. Or here's another idea, take that $900K and fix some roads.
Which leads to the vote-buying potential of this money grab.
Let's say a commissioner wants to give $10,000 from discretionary spending to help some group of elderly ladies who meet on Tuesdays in the basement at the First Lady of Ebenezer and the Valley of Saints and Service down off the Access Road.
"They do good work," the commissioner would say amid the muffled harrumphs and calls of "sure" from the other commissioners. Then comes election time, and said commissioner reminds those fine ladies about how he or she was there when they needed help.
Please, let's not even pretend like that was all that was out of the ordinary when our Hamilton County Commission had the largest discretionary slush fund in the entire state before county Mayor Jim Coppinger fought to end the process five years ago.
But to even harbor a notion this knuckle-headed in a budget season during a pandemic that will have untold ramifications on our local governments for years to come is at best stupid.
Don't we have enough to navigate these days without drumming out the massive mistakes and civil sins we corrected five years ago?
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.