Our intrepid all-republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors last night did what all skilled politicians do when a controversial scheme they were hoping to slip through without anyone noticing blows up in their face: Run for cover, and blame others!
The Board voted last night to “refer to committee” Supervisor Janet Clarke’s quarter-baked, secretly developed plan to abolish a dozen citizen advisory boards, including the Rural Economic Development Commission and the Historic District Review Committee. Clarke’s plan triggered a (completely predictable to anyone who has a clue) outraged reaction from the members of the REDC, who held an emergency meeting yesterday morning and issued a strongly worded protest; they were particularly incensed that they had never been consulted or informed about the plan and only learned of it indirectly over the weekend.
Clarke’s plan, it turns out, had in fact been ordered up by Chairman Scott York. But York, seeing which way the wind was blowing, quickly went into full CYA mode, trying to remove his fingerprints from the scheme as fast as humanly possible. He assured the REDC that there had been a “misunderstanding” and that he supported their work. Now many politicians in such a bind resort to such tried and true rhetorical dodges as saying that there were “misunderstandings” or that the proposal was merely a “starting point for discussion.” You don’t normally expect, however, a politician to argue as a point in his favor, “I was on repeated taxpayer-funded junkets to Germany so didn’t have a clue what was going on.” But that’s what York told the REDC yesterday, according to Leesburg Today: “York said he had not put any effort into it, being involved with other things and being out of the country at times.”
Additional facts about how Clarke went about her “study” underscore that it was a hatchet job from the get-go, determined to trump up some justification for getting rid of what this Board of Supervisors obviously considers a major irritant: to wit, any official venues where differing views can be aired and citizens involved in the business of county government. One notable feature of Clarke’s proposal was the boilerplate language she repeated over and over about every commission she was proposing to axe: that doing so would “release a great deal of staff resources.” Now, it is hardly a difficult to ascertain how much staff time is spent on various committees: this is exactly the sort of basic accounting fact that governments obsessively keep track of as a matter of course. It looked like Clarke hadn’t even bothered to do the most elementary fact-finding before drafting up her secret plan.
But it turns out it’s even worse than that. She did in fact find out — and when the answer did not fit her argument, she made the argument anyway, just resorting to vague language (“a great deal of resources”) to cover up the fact that there was no evidence to support it. As the county staffer assigend to the REDC reported yesterday, Clarke had approached her earlier with some very leading questions: “Clarke’s premise seemed to be the advisory panels take up a lot of staff time,” she said. In fact, the REDC staffer said it was only about 10 hours a month she spent on her work for the REDC.
Perhaps we can remember the moral of the story here. The very reason to have citizens engaged in their local government is to keep the politicians honest. Clarke’s MO in her “study” was a perfect illustration of how our all-Republican cast of elected officials treat facts, the truth, and honesty — when they think no one is really paying attention, and when they think they can get away with it.